Rhinbecca, NY, playing at The Brick through March 19, is the latest production from Theater Reconstruction Ensemble. My first experience with Theater Reconstruction Ensemble was 2015’s You On The Moors Now, which was a theatrical deconstruction of Elizabeth Bennett, Jane Eyre, and other favorite literary heroines. It was my kind of downtown theater insanity, tackling old-fashioned romantic tropes with modern-day feminist theory (and Jane Eyre as a kick-ass astronaut to boot).
In Rhinbecca, NY, Theater Reconstruction Ensemble takes on the works of playwright Eugene Ionesco and Alfred Hitchcock. The premise: Don, a stranger in a strange land, finds himself in Rhinbecca, NY. It’s a sweet little town with an apple orchard and a dress shop, and the only way to leave is by train, which only arrives once daily. Don doesn’t know how he got there or who he really is. He can tell that something isn’t quite right in Rhinbecca, NY, and it might have something to do with the mayor. He is missing, and no one knows where he might have gone. Maybe he was murdered or eaten by wolves, or maybe he wandered into the orchard and got lost. Whatever happened to the mayor, Don is the new guy in town, and everyone wants to know if he had anything to do with it.
For about the first two-thirds of Rhinbecca, NY, I was on board with the show. The town of Rhinbecca reminded me of a mix of Lake Wobegon and Night Vale. Everyone is butting into everyone’s business, and everyone’s business is much stranger than the typical Podunk mountain town. For example, take the apple orchard. Rhinbecca is built on a land fill, so the apples from the orchard are bitter. Despite this, they love their orchard and are very proud of their weekly stand-up comedy nights. Of course, their stage isn’t an actual stage but is a tree stump, and oftentimes, nobody shows up. Also, sometimes people go for a walk in the orchard and never find their way out, but their annual Halloween festival is very charming.
The world of the play is distinct and well-drawn out, and though the show has a small cast, the town feels busy and full of colorful characters. It was so random that I couldn’t guess what was coming next. Sometimes this worked for me, like the constant fourth-wall breaking and full-length music numbers to “Moskau” (of Internet fame) and “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).” Unfortunately, there is a lot that doesn’t work, like the ending.
With shows like Rhinbecca, NY or You On The Moors Now, weird is fun, but I need the insanity to come together and give me a really good payoff in the end. Otherwise, I’ve spent all this mental energy trying to understand the show’s intention and wind up feeling like I missed the point. You On The Moors Now delivered for me, but at the end of Rhinbecca, NY, I honestly wasn’t sure if the show was over. There had been so many dance breaks, written interludes, and other unconventional choices that I couldn’t tell if it had ended or not. I wouldn’t presume to speak for the rest of the audience, but there were people nearby who were also hesitant getting out of their seats, maybe out of concern that there was more to come. In the end, Rhinbecca, NY left me with more questions than answers, and not necessarily in a good way.
Rhinbecca, NY opened March 4 at The Brick, located at 579 Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and will run through March 19. Tickets are $18 and available in advance by phone at 1-866-811-4111 or online here.
March 4 at 8:00 PM
March 5 at 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM
March 6 at 8:00 PM
March 9 at 8:00 PM
March 10 at 8:00 PM
March 11 at 8:00 PM
March 12 at 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM
March 13 at 8:00 PM
March 14 at 8:00 PM
March 16 at 8:00 PM
March 17 at 8:00 PM
March 18 at 8:00 PM
March 19 at 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM
Directions to The Brick: