Review of “I Dreamed of Rats”

A living room.  A man.  A few props.

We, the scarce amount of guests, had been invited to watch a performance that almost felt like an intrusion into somebody’s private home and, in a way, it was.  Terence Cranendonk is creating a new paradigm for theatrical art in Northeast Ohio.  His “Where We Live” series is bringing “bold and creative new theater” to people’s homes–beginning with his own.

The first piece in the “Where We Live” series is entitled I Dreamed of Rats.  The story is an adaptation of Nickolai Gogol’s The Inspector General.  In this version, the Russian classic is pared down to one man, a few props and forty-five minutes.  The mayor, a supporting character in the original text, gets the full treatment in Rats, enacting the entire story as part of some wild imagining.

According to the playbill, Cranendonk has been living with this show for 15 years.  “I started working on I Dreamed of Rats fifteen years ago.  Over those fifteen years, I performed this piece in Cleveland, Chicago, and Italy, and took a hiatus from performing it for eleven years.  Even during that eleven year break, however, I kept the performance alive inside of me, rehearsing it, reconsidering it, mulling it.”

The Mayor (Terence Cranendonk) reads a letter that sends him into an evening of panic.

Photo Credit:  Moving Studios

The performance began slowly, unraveling at a pace that helped draw the audience into the world of the play.  By the end, however, Cranendonk transformed from character-to-character and moment-to-moment with lightning speed and precision.

Cranendonk was at his best during instances of outrageous physical comedy, engaging his whole being in a way unparalleled by most actors.  These moments never passed into cartoonish overacting, but stayed firmly rooted in action– even when prancing around the room wearing a coat hanger on his head.

It was clear from the performance that, like a skilled craftsman, Cranendonk has a mastery over his tools.  Nothing he did was unnecessary; the economy of movement was refreshing.  Through his artistry, a coat and scarf became convincing acting partners with Cranendonk virtually disappearing while they played out a scene together.

After the production, the entire audience was invited to stay for a party, including wine and light refreshments– an atmosphere that could only be improved by beginning before the performance.

Due to popular demand, Cranendonk has added another performance of I Dreamed of Rats on Saturday, August 20.  Tickets are $15 and available by calling 330.664.0623.

Seating is VERY limited and you must call to reserve a spot.  Rats is also available for private engagements, including in-home performances.  Contact Cranendonk at the above number for more information.

An interview with Cranendonk about creating I Dreamed of Rats be can downloaded from Heads Up Arts Radio at www.headsupproductions.net/huar.

-Benjamin Rexroad
Managing Artistic Director

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