Review: Bunny (Tarragon Theatre)

Hannah Moscovitch’s Bunny takes to the stage at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre

I don’t often recognize myself in a character as much as I did at the opening night of Bunny, Hannah Moscovitch’s new play at Tarragon. Maev Beaty, one of the most splendid actors this city has to offer, plays Sorrel. As a teenager, Sorrel is a dorky, top-of-the-honour-roll student who’d rather read old novels than try to “fit in.” But as she moves further into adolescence, she discovers one thing that’s as pleasurable as reading: kissing, and more than kissing, with more than one boy. While Sorrel is described by all as stunningly beautiful, which does not describe me, I identify so much with her twin passions of sex and fiction, as well as her socially awkward sense of humour. Beaty’s Sorrel is so much herself, with no time for inhibition, that it’s hard not to love her.

Bunny contributes to the cultural conversation we are having about consent right now. When she initiates an affair with one of her professors (Cyrus Lane) and he falls in love with her, cries when they break up, do we feel sympathy for him? I literally heard conflict over that in whispers from the audience around me.

Later on, when she is a professor and married herself, she is propositioned by a very young man (Jesse LaVercombe) and there are at least three reasons she should reject him outright. Her reaction, however, is wavering, and do we feel differently about that? How much does context matter in liaisons that stray from prevailing morality?

This is all tied into the novels Sorrel reads: her favourite genre is Victorian, where sexuality, particularly women’s, is repressed, and love itself subject to oppressive social conventions. How much of those mores did she internalize, reading those books through pubescence? How did they conflict with the values she was raised with, in a household where Simone de Beauvoir was coffee table reading?

Sorrel’s capacity for true love is best manifested platonically, in her friendship with Maggie (Rachel Cairns.) Maggie is her first friend, her only friend, and the one who gives her the nickname “Bunny.” They meet when they are both university students, and Maggie is also a visual artist and a young single mom as well, affording to be all those things through her family’s wealth.

If I have any complaint at all, it’s that I wished Maggie was a bit more filled out as a character. Maggie is charming and confident, and it’s unclear what draws her into a loving friendship with Sorrel, who is not great at human interactions that happen fully clothed. Still, Cairns’ performance, her dynamic with Beaty, is so sincere that I believed every moment, even when Maggie forgives Sorrel for things she has every right to be mad about.

Rounding out the cast is the very handsome Tony Ofori as Sorrel’s first boyfriend, who probably deserves a girl that likes him for more than his looks and his body; Matthew Edison, as Carol, Maggie’s brother who becomes Sorrel’s husband, probably mostly because he’s Maggie’s brother; and Gabriella Albino as Lola, Maggie’s daughter, who is a teenager in the later part of the show, and quite a contrast to the teenager Sorrel is at the beginning.

Sorrel takes care of Carol and Maggie when their mother dies, she takes care of Lola when Maggie gets sick. She is capable of loving and expressing it in this practical way. She’s not good at putting it into words, and she can’t be, as she calls it, “normal.” Being a similar kind of abnormal, I feel for her, and wish that we could all live in a world where sex and sexuality wasn’t as fraught as it is.

Details

  • Bunny is onstage at Tarragon, 30 Bridgman Ave, until April 1, 2018
  • Showtimes are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 pm, with matinees on Sunday at 2:30 pm and some Saturday matinees at 2 pm
  • Tickets range from $22–$60
  • Purchase tickets online or at 416-531-1827

Photo of Maev Beaty and Cyrus Lane by Cylla von Tiedemann