Off Broadway’s Mysterious ‘White Rabbit Red Rabbit’ Turns a Profit With Rotating Stars

Gordon Cox
Variety

“White Rabbit Red Rabbit” is now in the black. The Off Broadway play has recouped its capitalization costs with an unusual model that sees the show perform once a week with a different actor taking on the play’s single role at every outing.

With no set or costumes to speak of, “White Rabbit Red Rabbit” was capitalized at a frugal $75,000, according to producers Devlin Elliott and Tom Kirdahy of Maberry Theatricals. But its commercial success, and the staying power demonstrated over a run of 34 weeks (and counting), nonetheless represent a notable achievement on an economically challenging Off Broadway landscape — especially since the show trades on mystery, advocating that audiences come in knowing as little as possible about the 75-minute production.

What audiences do know is the gimmick: At each performance, the actor is handed the script for the first time, and he or she acts it out right then and there, script in hand. Performers have included Nathan Lane, Kyra Sedgwick, Whoopi Goldberg, Darren Criss, F. Murray Abraham, Ramin Karimloo, Martin Short, Brian Dennehy and the upcoming Brian Stokes a Mitchell, on the hook for the Nov. 28 show.

The play’s conceit, and its unpredictability, have helped the production build momentum despite a once-a-week performance schedule in an intimate space of less than 250 seats. (Tickets ring in at $79 apiece, with a $125 premium.) An actor’s fan base often helps power box office — producers cite a recent appearance by Stana Katic of “Castle” as particularly popular — but the show has also picked up its share of avids who come back multiple times to see different actors take on the part.

At the outset, both the audience and the actor know little more about the play other than the fact that it’s written by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour — who is forbidden from leaving his country — and that it’s an allegorical tale that resonates with the theme of giving voice to the voiceless. It’s billed as part drama, part comedy and part social experiment.

The show is now scheduled to play through Dec. 19, with actors on tap including Micah Stock (“It’s Only a Play”) and James Roday (“Psych”). The producers haven’t yet decided whether the production will return after a holiday break, and are now weighing factors that include advance ticket sales and the challenges of lining up game talent for one-time-only stints.

The Off Broadway run of “White Rabbit Red Rabbit,” produced in association with Aurora Nova Productions and Boat Rocker Entertainment, continues tonight with Nancy Travis. Tickets are currently on sale through Dec. 19.

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