Six Armenian actors rehearse for a play scheduled to open the following night, while outside their rehearsal hall the sounds of artillery fire approach ever closer. The intended piece the actors are rehearsing is an absurdist play that deals directly with the realities of Armenian life in Lebanon during the Civil War.
The play premiered in Los Angeles, in 1985, at the Assistance League Playhouse. Directed by Vahe Berberian; Produced by Betty Berberian. An English translation of Pink Elephant was later produced in London, England; Edinburgh, Scotland; and in both Sacramento, and Los Angeles, California.
The piece was performed by the Experimental Theatre Company. Original cast: Vahé Berberian, Nora Armani, Leon Fermanian, Maurice Kouyoumdjian, Ara Madzounian, Setta Mardirossian, Gerald Papasian, Chunt Semerciyan, Serko Shiraz. An English translation of Pink Elephant was produced in London, England; Edinburgh, Scotland; Sacramento, California and Los Angeles, California.
Reviews of the Movie “Pink Elephant”
“… one of the best, Ara Madzounian’s The Pink Elephant – in Armenian with subtitles – portrays the Lebanese Civil War with marvelous economy: The crises and self-realization of a troupe of theatre actors caught in cataclysm. One freeze-frame of an actress twirling a parasol in a basement recalls Truffaut or DeBorca.”
– Michael Wilmington, Los Angeles Times
Praise for the Play “Pink Elephant”
“This is a stunning play… Keeps the audience totally attentive.”
– The List, Edinburgh, Scotland
“No play on the Fringe could be more topical than Pink Elephant. It is an impressive exercise in political theatre, which also plays about with the boundaries between theatre and life much like Pirandello, Shakespeare or Calderon for that matter.”
– The Scotsman, Scotland
“… of the three films, Ara Madzounian’s The Pink Elephant is perhaps the most compelling: spoken In Armenian with subtitles, the film tells the story of a group of actors trying to put on a play in Beirut during a heavy bombardment. The juxtaposition of art and life, with actors worrying first about lines, then about opening night, and finally about sheer survival, is nicely handled. The film also pulsates with the raw, angry energy of a filmmaker who already has an intimate knowledge of barbarism and death, who batters us with documentary images of a massacre as his stars huddle in a bomb shelter arguing about a play.”
– Mary Beth Crain, LA Weekly
“With Pink Elephant, the writer Vahé Berberian, a Lebanese-Armenian living in California, has given us a curiously involving piece which brings freshness and vigour…”
–The Guardian, England
“There is a defiant and heartening vitality about Pink Elephant. It’s good value. If you want to learn how to respond to depressing news with humanity and a laugh, it should be prescribable under the NHS for anyone contemplating suicide.”
– What’s On, London
The Pink Elephant
“We had to pinch ourselves to make sure we weren’t asleep or dreaming, that we actually saw solid contemporary Armenian theater last weekend when the Armenian Experimental Theater had its debut with the production of “The Pink Elephant” by Vahe Berberian at the Assistance League Playhouse in Hollywood.
Vahe Berberian excels in writing true-to-life dialogue, normal, everyday speech; in this case, the typical Beirut various of modern Armenian. After all, speech makes theater. It is a crucial element which compels the audience to identify with the characters or situations on stage. Identification is essential to communication. The play’s content, its themes are current. It had quality staging, good players, comedy, pathos. Pinch yourself.”
From Black, to Pink, to…Blue?
…“If my commentary of the “Pink Elephant” is to pick up where everyone else’s left off, then I must discuss its impact on the community. From the outset, the “Pink Elephant” has changed something from the reality, unfortunately, being the dull boring plays, that are produced currently for L.A.’s Armenian stages.
“The play has infused youthfulness, modernism and originality to an otherwise monotonous theatrical parade. Personally, it has encouraged me to see the play twice, to rejoice all its goodness and to finally wonder as to what could top this one.”
The Flying Pink Elephant
The Armenian Observer
“Voltaire, in a conversation with his friend Marmontel about the theater, has said “The theater is the most enchanting of all careers. It is there that in one day you may obtain glory and fortune.” While it is doubtful that the fine group of artists of the Experimental Theater will gain substantial fortunes, their production of Vahe Berberian’s “Pink Elephant” certainly has made them worthy of glory. This play, written with intelligence, directed with finesse, and produced with courage, has raised Armenian theater in Los Angeles from the ridiculous to the sublime.”
One Giant Leap For The Elephant
“Never a dull moment.
Drama, comedy, slice of life, romance, thriller – all sorts of dramatic situations develop, dominate, intertwine, stay suspended, seek solution in this play.
“A living theater that moves, enlightens, entertains and shakes the cobwebs off the resigned and lulled conservative minds of the Armenian theater-going public of the Los Angeles. It is a break-through.
“Pink Elephant has audacity, energy, originality, relevance and humor.”
The Pink Elephant Opens a New Page in Theater
The Armenian Observer
“When you assemble the best talents and you let them perform freely in an experimental manner in a play which is close to their hearts and minds, then you get a great performance, provided the play is also well-written. And with a good, perceptive and liberal director, who has faith and trust in his actors and the crew, the result, no doubt, will be an excellent production. And that is what happened with the “pink Elephant” – an excellent and rewarding theatrical experience of the best kind, opening new vistas.”
The California Courier
“Now that this young talented group grabbed the attention of the community, we expect more from them. Enthusiastic audiences are hard to come by in the Armenian community. Another such play must be staged in the not-too-distant future before this enthusiasm dies down.”