Los Angeles Theater Review: BUNNY BUNNY (Falcon Theatre in Burbank)

by Tom Chaits on February 8, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles

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NO NEED TO HOP ON OVER TO THE FALCON

There’s an old European superstition: In order to ward off evil spirits and bad luck the first words you utter on the first day of every month must be ”rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.” As a child frightened of monsters lurking in her bedroom, comedienne and actress Gilda Radner’s father told her to pull the covers up over her head and say “bunny, bunny” (a rite she religiously repeated at the dawn of every new month throughout her life).  Hence the title Bunny Bunny Gilda Radner: A ‘Gilda’ (Erin Pineda) and ‘Alan’ (Brendan Hunt) in Bunny Bunny – Gilda Radner: A Sort of Romantic Comedy at the Falcon Theatre.Sort of Romantic Comedy, Alan Zweibel’s ode to friendship and wannabe romance currently hopping around the hutch at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank.

Based on his book of recollected conversations with the actress covering their 14-year relationship (from their first meeting at a 1975 Saturday Night Live rehearsal to her untimely 1989 death from ovarian cancer), the script offers little more than snippets and tidbits that are not inherently insightful or revealing. In actuality, the fact that he’s a famous writer and she’s a comedy icon has very little to do with the overall execution of the story. Unfortunately the end result is a simple tale of unrequited physical love and longing that at its core is ordinary and not particularly interesting. Told in a series of short vignettes with no real sense of history or the passage of time, the sum of the parts add up to an unsatisfying and rather dull night of theater. To add insult to injury, despite the fact that he is primarily known as a comedy writer, the script is remarkably light on laughs. There are many “grin in recognition” moments but very few guffaws.

‘Gilda’ (Erin Pineda), ‘Everyone Else’ (Tom Fonss) and ‘Alan’ (Brendan Hunt) in Bunny Bunny – Gilda Radner: A Sort of Romantic Comedy at the Falcon Theatre.In keeping with the saying “write what you know,” Mr. Zweibel excels at breathing realism and humanity into his own character: It’s a fully fleshed-out representation of a real three-dimensional person. When it comes to Radner it’s all surface with no depth. Sure we learn she’s got an eating disorder, suffers from anxiety, and has been unlucky in love (the reason she gives for not wanting to consummate their relationship which she believes would ultimately wreck their friendship), but to what end? As the lights dim to black we realize we haven’t learned anything of substance about her.

‘Alan’ (Brendan Hunt), ‘Gilda’ (Erin Pineda) and ‘Everyone Else’ (Tom Fonss) in Bunny Bunny – Gilda Radner: A Sort of Romantic Comedy at the Falcon Theatre.Director Dimitri Toscas has wisely made no attempt to coax an impersonation of Radner out of his female lead Erin Pineda. There is no need to do so since her actual persona is of little consequence to the show. With the exception of dialogue-free appearances of an exaggerated Roseanne Roseannadanna wig and a second-act performance of “Let’s Talk Dirty to the Animals” from the B’Way solo show Gilda Radner – Live from New York, there is no recreation of any of Radner’s characters. What we get is a portrait of a troubled and lonely woman brought to life as best as can be by Ms. Pineda considering the hand she’s been dealt by the playwright. As Alan, Brendan Hunt is terrific and at all times believable, but as previously mentioned he is given a lot more to work with in crafting his performance. The standout here is Tom Fonss, billed as playing “everyone else,” who brings truth and humor to a multitude of characters both male and female, garnering most of the chuckles the evening has to offer.

‘Alan’ (Brendan Hunt) and ‘Gilda’ (Erin Pineda) in Bunny Bunny – Gilda Radner: A Sort of Romantic Comedy at the Falcon Theatre.Adam Flemming’s set design does not give Mr. Toscas a lot to work with. It’s basically a bare stage with 2 chairs and a table that are arranged and rearranged ad infinitum to imply different locations. It becomes quite tedious. Hanging above and behind the action are a series of canvas panels on which Flemming’s designs of different scenes (Central Park, the Long Island Rail Road) are projected. There is no consistency in the tone of the projections with some being fairly intricate and others more representative. Jeremy Pivnick’s lighting design is straightforward and unimaginative. With the exception of 2 very square boxes of light that the characters occasionally step into, the stage is just lit.

The name Gilda Radner in the title might lead you to believe you are about to see a show that will shed some insight into the life of a performer you no doubt have fond memories of. Be forewarned: When you exit the theater you will have learned very little about her. In fact the show could have been called Jane Doe: A Sort of Romantic Comedy and the end result would have been the same.

photos by Chelsea Sutton

Bunny Bunny Gilda Radner: A Sort of Romantic Comedy
Falcon Theatre
4252 Riverside Dr. in Burbank
scheduled to end March 2, 2014
for tickets, call 818.955.8101 or visit www.FalconTheatre.com

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

luca d February 17, 2014 at 2:57 pm

After attending Sunday, Feb 16th’s performance, I agree with this review 100%.
This play was a snooze.
Glad to know that I’m not the only one annoyed by the roaming table and chairs.

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