I laughed (I didn't cry), and I was none the wiser having seen Elephant in the Room!, Dan Fogler's energetic--but little else--homage to Ionesco. As a showcase for comic actors, this show succeeds. As a parable, satire, or anything else, it falls flat, which is a shame, since it certainly has great actors.
Reviewed by Aaron Riccio
The phrase "inspired by" isn't the most inspiring thing to see linked to a play. Playwrights all too often wind up simply aping a plot and forget to add their own plot. This is, sadly, the case with Dan Fogler's adaptation of Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros. The good news is that Dan Fogler is a funny man--you might remember him from 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee or the upcoming Balls of Fury movie--and he instills his new play, Elephant in the Room! with energetic piles of comedy, like a stack of funny flapjacks, piled high and drenched in silly syrup. The bad news is that when the sugar high of Fogler's wit runs out--toward the beginning of Act Two--there's about as little holding the play together as there is holding the scroll-like sets in place.
Going to see Elephant in the Room! then is a means to sample the various talents of gifted comic actors; to see them, if you will, in their natural habitat of reckless, unrestrained comedy. Bjorn Thorstad, with his rubbery torso and quizzical voice, brings to mind Ace Ventura; Johnny Giacalone, with his wavering body language and self-effacing demeanor, could double as Adam Sandler; and Jordan Gelber, with his fiery presence and sloppy charm, is reminiscent of Fogler himself. The show is stolen by Ariel Shafir's transformation from a slick, domineering businessman into an elephant, and his vocal and physical control justify the protracted, over-the-top scene. This is a recurring theme of Fogler's work: the actors qualify the text, going above and beyond to sell the material.
Ultimately, there are too many things that the cast can't sell: aside from all of the pop culture references (from South Park to some odd goggle-masked exclamation) and the clunky scenes (a pot-based government, several satirical addresses from our beloved Bush), the play's moral conceit makes very little sense, bogged down as it is. Ionesco had a distinct target and purpose in his work; Fogler's target doesn't seem to extend beyond the third row. What is the Elephant in the Room!? I don't know; try standing still and I'll throw this pie in your face.
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.