BWW Review: BUNNY at the Stratford Festival is a Thing of Beauty
Hannah Moscovitch's BUNNY is enjoying its World Premiere at the Stratford Festival's Studio Theatre this season. The performance that I attended was completely sold out, so it appears that audiences are enjoying it too! Directed by Sarah Garton Stanley, with Design by Michael Gianfrancesco, this play is unique experience from the get-go. The intimacy of the Studio Theatre has the audience very present and engaged at the beginning, and the beauty and originality of the play maintains that engagement throughout.
Maev Beaty plays the titular character, whose name is actually Sorrel. The audience witnesses Sorrel's sexual and social evolution from high school age, into her late thirties. The character narrates the play in the third person when not interacting with the other characters. This was momentarily jarring, but I found that I quickly settled into it, and it became quite effective, as it seemed to work well for this particular character. Sorrel is a fascinating character and Beaty truly brings her to life with a rich and beautiful performance.
The entire cast is excellent. A small company of seven actors allows for the audience to develop unique relationships with each character, just as Sorrel does. Emilio Viera steals hearts as Justin, the popular high school football player who becomes Sorrel's first official boyfriend. Although we only see this character for a short time, he is far from a caricature. Moscovitch's writing, Sarah Garton Stanley's direction, and Viera's performance bring out Jusin's simple, yet truly good-hearted nature. He quickly becomes a character who we care about. Cyrus Lane, David Patrick Flemming and Tim Campbell are also excellent as they portray men in Sorrel's life.
Another beautiful performance comes from Krystin Pellerin as Sorrel's only female friend, Maggie. Everyone deserves a like Maggie. She is patient, loyal, accepting, and her friendship is unconditional. This is a relationship that I would have loved to have seen more of, but the moments that we do see are enough to demonstrate how ad why this friendship worked, and why it was so important for Sorrel. It is in fact Maggie, who gives Sorrel the nickname, Bunny-because she always looks scared.
Although Sorrel's eccentricities, intellect, and personal background are very unique, there is something very relatable about her-perhaps because like most humans, she spends a lot of time in her own mind, and also like most humans, she is flawed. She will analyze a decision, and verbalism why it is wrong, and yet, still make that decision. This is so very human. What is refreshing is that although Sorrel certainly feels guilty for her mistakes, Moscovitch's message is almost that she shouldn't be. The audience genuinely likes this character despite her poor decisions, because we know she is not making them with malice. She is simply trying to find her place in the world and to find love...and that kind of search can be a messy one.
The final line in this play is very simple and very powerful-both for the main character, and for the audience, because it feels like a message that everyone can benefit from.
BUNNY runs in Repertory at the Studio Theatre until September 24.
Photo Credit: David Hou