Curtain Call: Transforming into a rabbit is no laughing matter

Thrown Stone Theatre, Ridgefield: Julia and Walter are about to venture out for dinner, when Julia notices that Walter is preoccupied with something. When she finally gets him to tell her what’s bothering him, he shows her his tail. It is a big, fluffy rabbit’s tail. It’s quite funny to see this grown man with a rabbit’s tail, but as the play unfolds, we realize that this play is not so funny. It is a metaphor for transforming from one world into another — a metaphor for dying.

At first Julia is full of hope that her brother, a doctor, will cure Walter before he completely transforms. Walter’s transformation into rabbit-hood is like what one expects with a terminal illness. At first Julia is his staunch supporter, but eventually she tires of the defecation he drops all over the house. She’s tired of cleaning up after him, and she can’t stand the smell. Like most caretakers, as her husband’s life changes, so too does hers.

Once the audience catches on, there’s a lot less laughter. Described as a “beautiful meditation on illness, grief, and personal transformation,” Where All Good Rabbits Go,  this unique play by Karina Cochran lives up to its accurate description. Throughout the production, we hear that everyone must transform eventually, which is key to understanding the metaphor. In addition to aligning this inevitable change with dying of a terminal disease, there’s talk of green pastures where, as the title suggests, all good rabbits go. This leads to a metaphor on religion and how it offers hope.

Because this work seems so simplistic, it is easy to buy into its comic surface. However, this falls straight into the realm of absurdity. It looks funny on the outside, but actually it is quite seriously about coping with illness, and learning how to deal with the loss of a loved one.

Alexandra Bazan plays Julia with all the love a young wife can have for a husband. She’s as believable as Jason Peck, her young husband. That he is believable as he transforms into a rabbit, speaks volumes about his performance. Mike Boland, plays Julia’s brother, the doctor. He delivers an especially fine performance as a stern judge passing a heavy verdict during one of Julia’s nightmares. What is so refreshing about this play and this production is that it is not the same ol’ same ol’ that we see so much of during the light fare summer offerings.

The cleverly designed set has a distinct cartoonish look by Fufan Zhang who lays everything out in black and white. All of the furniture is white with black trim, but not in a realistic way. Rather it all looks like a set for a Saturday morning children’s cartoon marathon. Even the wine bottle is white with black trim as are the the toilet, the sink, the table and chairs and the bed. There’s no denying that everyone in this play is going to transform, just as in life everyone will transform. It’s as obvious as black and white.

When Walter dreams of the endless green pastures awaiting him, a projection is displayed with images of many rabbits hopping around happily. Brittany Bland’s projection design is creative to the max. Cyrus Newitt directs this Connecticut premiere with a pleasant mix of tenderness and emotion. He brings out the romance, the desperation, and the ultimate acceptance as naturally as life itself. He also designs the lighting. Rein Schlect designs Walter’s farmer attire and Julia’s fashion designed outfits with color wheel flair. Jason Peck, a founder of the theater and co-artistic director, not only performs as Walter, but designs the sound for the show.

The play runs through Aug. 4. Box office: 203-442-1714 and/or thrownstone.org/events.

Joanne Greco Rochman is a founding member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]

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Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]

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