A Brief Narrative of an Extraordinary Birth of Rabbits

This fantastical show, like a circus, delivers one engaging act after another

Arts Review

A Brief Narrative of an Extraordinary Birth of Rabbits

Salvage Vanguard Theater,

2803 Manor Rd., www.salvagevanguard.org

Through March 6

Running time: 1 hr., 30 min.

Ladies and gentlemen, do I have a show for you! The staggering truths of love and lust will be revealed! Let you not consider the mating rituals of the stork until you've seen this show.

Let you not pass judgment over a women birthing rabbits until you've seen this show! Let you not dismiss rats' balls till you've seen this show! Let you not see another show till you see three puppet doctors sprouting out of a gargantuan pair of legs! Ladies and gentlemen, Salvage Vanguard Theater presents A Brief Narrative of an Extraordinary Birth of Rabbits!

Much like the vaudevillian circus that frames SVT's stage, Rabbits is a show full of one engaging act after the next. Rabbits is a show that appeals not to the restrictions of reality but to our desire for the fantastic, the unworldly, the impossible. C. Denby Swanson's script is decidedly intelligent and creative, chock-full of ideas, beliefs, characters, one fantastic conceit after another. The text actually reminded me of such 21st century novels as Salvador Plascencia's The People of Paper or Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated, in which the authors attempted to stuff every innovative thought they had into one world.

Indeed, the world of Rabbits is made up of quite disparate narrative continents: the stork-cum-doctor who narrates casually to the audience; the Victorian-era doctor puppets who comment on the main source text of this play, an 18th century woman who fooled people into believing she birthed these fluffy creatures; Kitty, who, desperately wanting a child, forces her younger sister, Mare, into conceiving using her husband Joe's sperm. And that's not even mentioning the rabbits.

Director Jenny Larson and her designers did a very good job of taking such varied influences, eras, and stories and creating a cohesive framework for this play. The vaudevillian undertones of Rabbits are concocted with characters painted in strong, broad strokes; big performances; and a constantly roving narrative focus (not unlike the spotlight under the big top).

Swanson's greatly imagined characters are all given chances to show their humanity and garner sympathy, a nice juxtaposition to their absurd interactions. As an audience member, I found myself unsure where my heart lay – if I try to dole out my sympathy equally to each character, well, then my feelings diminish across the field. Swanson's script wants to bring humanity and sympathy to all of these wild ideas, which is really asking too much. And even with Larson's strong direction, energetic performances led by the expressive Shaun Patrick Tubbs and Robin Grace Thompson, Connor Hopkins' wonderful and hilarious puppets, and a lot of great moments, the production feels like less than the sum of its magnificent parts.

Rabbits is in tune with what I love about theatre: a multitude of fascinating ideas; spirited performances; an unencumbered mix of music, multimedia, and anything else necessary in a show; artists challenging themselves and the audience. The fact that I wanted more from the production speaks not to its failings but to all it inspired in me. Like a trip to the circus, the show has more stimuli than you'll know what to do with, but the experience is certainly worth it.

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A Brief Narrative of an Extraordinary Birth of Rabbits, C. Denby Swanson, Jenny Larson, Shaun Patrick Tubbs, Robin Grace Thompson, Connor Hopkins

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