Symphony of Rats

Wilkerson Theatre (formerly The California Stage)

1723 25th St.
Sacramento, CA 95816

(916) 451-5822

Rated 4.0

Can you really go wrong staging a play about a high government official gone bonkers, and doing the show within a mile of the state Capitol? If the logic were really that simple, it wouldn’t have taken nearly 20 years for someone to stage New York experimentalist Richard Foreman’s Symphony of Rats in Sacramento.

In any case, Nick Avdienko, artistic director of the spunky Beyond the Proscenium Productions, has his own interpretation in mind. “I didn’t want to copy Foreman’s production style,” Avdienko says in the program notes.

Foreman has been cited, by no less than the New York Times, for his “nonlinear tableaus about the unconscious mind.” This show’s wild and wooly in that regard. It’s an interplanetary voyage with golf clubs, a pogo stick and a woman who walks on the ceiling. Symphony of Rats makes Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot look like a data-driven whodunit. Foreman’s also known for deliriously decorated sets, but this local show has a black-box approach.

What Avdienko has done—and really done quite well—is turn an unconventional script that challenges almost every convention of storytelling into an absorbing, diverting, shape-shifting 75 minutes of theater. And he’s done it with modest resources.

In the center of it all is veteran actor Blair Leatherwood, playing a president who hears voices, which could be coming from outer space. Leatherwood is deliciously deranged, and he’s surrounded by an ensemble of younger performers.

If you want to know if the show makes sense, you’re posing the wrong question. It gets you at an intuitive level. It’s also highly physical and fun. And Avdienko, who’s a composer, plays with music and sound layered with movement. Very interesting.