If you love Saturday Night Live, clowns, or faked orgasms, then Bunny Bunny, Gilda Radner is the show for you. Director Jenn Maley ’16 aims to make audience members laugh and cry with a script that pulls you deeper and deeper into an original world of SNL actors and writers. Filled with a cast of gag and character clowns, Bunny Bunny explores the relationship between SNL member Gilda Radner and narrator Alan Zweibel.
Years after their relationship, Zweibel, played by Marty Strauss ’16, reflects on his sometimes-friendship-sometimes-romance with Gilda. With limited narration from Strauss and tons of help from character clowns Sabrina Imbler ’16 and Marli Scharlin ’16, the play leads us through the ups and downs of a long friendship. The audience is taken on a journey from the moment the two meet in a waiting room, to their final moments together before Gilda dies from ovarian cancer. Though the story deceptively presents itself as a romantic comedy, it soon reveals its true self as a serious tale of companionship, trust, and dependence. Though the two never end up together in a romantic sense, the friendship they build guides them through both of their toughest times.
Natalie McDonald’15 plays the loud and spunky Gilda Radner whose effect on the life of Alan Zweibel inspires Bunny Bunny. McDonald expertly manages to perform the growth of her character, transitioning from a somewhat-carefree jokester to a grown woman with more wisdom and experience in the trials of life. Together, Strauss and McDonald make for a charismatic duo – Strauss charming us with his wry commentary and McDonald captivating us with her whimsical magnetism. A cast of clowns, which includes Brad Weekes ’17 and CJ Risman ’17, step in to fill in any missing pieces of the emotional and honest tale of the friendship between Zweibel and Radner.
The set of Bunny Bunny also adds to its charm. What at first appears to be the backstage set of a television studio later transitions into characters’ apartment buildings or even the greenery of Central Park. The various props displayed around the set, along with the number of wigs and costumes worn by the clowns, contribute to the overall playful aesthetic of the show. Though Bunny Bunny is by nature a boisterous comedy, the fluidity of the theater space allows it to become a home for quiet and intimate moments as well.
If you take anything away from Bunny Bunny, it is that comedy can sometimes be the best anecdote to tragedy. With a hard-hitting second act, audiences are forced to ask how one keeps hold onto their joy when the world crashes down on them. Through good spirits and the loyalty of friends, McDonald’s Gilda seems to grasp onto her happiness right until the end. The world Maley presents with Bunny Bunny, Gilda Radner relies on its characters’ resilient optimism and will to live, and yes, along the way there are some pretty funny jokes.
Bunny Bunny runs through May 24th. Tickets are available here or at the PW box office an hour before each performance.