Bunnies: Part One
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
May 26, 2005
I love urban legends and ridiculous tabloid gossip. Purely for their entertainment value, mind you: I don’t buy into them, but some people do. Playwright Todd Carlstrom takes a historical tabloid headline (that is evidently well documented) and turns it into a very funny postmodern comedy written entirely in blank verse. It is running as part of the Spring Fever Festival down in the Lower East Side at CSV Cultural Center.
Bunnies Part 1 is set in the year 1726 in England. We meet a young pregnant woman who has decided to con everyone into believing that she is giving birth to bunnies. Not whole bunnies, mind you, but bunny parts (and she shoots them across the room). Her motive is that she is looking for some sort of hand-out. She has her husband bring one of her "birthed" bunny fragments to a local doctor, who checks it out and is quickly convinced of its authenticity. He writes a letter to other doctors and that letter eventually makes it all the way to the King. The King dispatches his Royal Anatomist to validate the story. The Royal Anatomist elicits the help of a pop doctor who wants nothing more than to make himself famous over a bizarre story like this. In the end the Royal Anatomist’s skepticism is no match for the pop doctor’s Unbridled Lust for Power (capitalized because Unbridled Lust for Power is actually a character in this play). That concludes Part 1 of the story. Part 2 is to be released soon.
Carlstrom is a master at writing the eloquence of 18th century King’s English. The show’s postmodern style matches the quirkiness of its premise and Carlstrom delivers some odd yet stageworthy characters, like a newspaper that reads itself and the personifications of Unbridled Lust for Power and Good Sense. The play shines some light on why people have a need to believe in something extraordinary while also illuminating why other people have a need to deceive. Carlstrom’s imagination is so out there that I was immediately sucked in and I found myself craving an endless stream of whimsical events.
Thankfully, director/costumer/sound designer Tomi Tsunoda envisioned the same sort of whimsical world that I craved. She creates an atmosphere where everything is tongue-in-cheek and the only thing of any value is kitsch value. From the snappy Esquivel played during all 18 scene changes to the eber-campy costumes, Tsunoda’s vision of a postmodern historical tabloid story hits right on the mark.
The ensemble also hits the mark. It is a fairly large cast and most play multiple roles. Richard Bubbico grabs a lot of attention as local doctor John Howard, and is meant to be the character with whom we identify as the story unfolds. Douglas R. Paulson balances subtlety and spunk perfectly as the pop doctor in search of fame. Rory Sheridan and Julie Katz are absolutely hilarious in every role they touch. Jay Gaussoin is also very funny as the barely coherent King George. But for me it is Laura Esposito who steals the night as the bunny-squirting Mary Toft.
Bunnies Part 1 is without a doubt a funny and highly imaginative show. I could see the elements of good writing, acting and directing coming together to form something greater than its parts, like all the flying bunny parts coming together to make a rabbit. The producing company, breedingground productions, presents this festival in the hopes that they can help other self-producing artists get their stuff out there. I think that’s a great cause, so check this work out.