MARCH 2022 | Volume 213
Emma Slipp & Nathan Kay. Photo by Emily Cooper.
A hot play from Canada’s hottest playwright, Bunny gets a terrific production from Search Party director Mindy Parfitt and an excellent supporting cast around Emma Slipp’spowerful title performance.The play itself, though, left me shaking my head a little.
Slipp’s Sorrel—later nicknamed Bunny by her best and only friend, Maggie (Ghazal Azarbad)—alternates narration of her life story with dramatized scenes.
Raised by hippie-ish university professor parents, young Sorrel has a tough time at her rural school. She’s too smart and too unconventional. When she discovers the joys of sex, things get better but also worse for her: she’s labelled a “dorky slut.” Sorrel’s love of sex will be a driving force for the rest of her life, along with her love of Victorian fiction. But so will her sense of inadequacy (“Rejection clings to the skin, deforms the heart”) and later her guilt that even the best sex will generate.
We observe her relationship with a high school boyfriend (Liam Stewart-Kanigan)—the sex is good—and a married university lit professor (Jay Hindle)—the sex is great. She ends up a literature professor herself, and marries Maggie’s brother, Carol (Kayvon Khoshkam), with whom the sex seems barely adequate. Her continued relationship with the prof and possibly with a younger man (Nathan Kay) with whom sex would be seriously inappropriate threatens not just to blow up her relationship with Carol but to destroy her own psyche.
For all the great sex—and the staged sex scenes are compelling—Sorrel is very unhappy. She has tried to be good, she moans, but the longing … The political and ethical centres of the play seem blurry. Is Sorrel just following her nature, trying to be herself, doing the only thing that seems to make her genuinely happy? But if it doesn’t finally make her happy, is it worth the damages it appears to inflict? Her relationship with Maggie may be the key, but it remains enigmatic.The play opens and closes with a scene on a lake, Maggie sitting in the front of a canoe, frozen, at moments, like a figurehead. It’s a striking image, perhaps a suggestion of the objectification Sorrel has inflicted on herself. The play that just closed at The Cultch, Clean/Espejos, was another female playwright’s portrait of two other deeply unhappy women, acutely self-conscious like Sorrel, with complex emotional lives like hers. If there are conclusions to be drawn from this admittedly tiny sampling, I’ll leave them to others.
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