Written by Keiko Green
Directed by Pamala Mijatov
Presented by Annex
April 24 – May 16
Keiko Green’s new musical Bunnies opened at Annex Theatre on Friday night. The house was packed with enthusiastic audience members, whooping and cheering the show on after every scene and musical number. Artistic Director Pamala Mijatov deftly helms this production, taking the audience on a madcap, hedonistic romp through Woodland Park.
The show opens with Yesenia Inglesias taking the stage, grounding the first words of her play with a superb blend of gravitas and athleticism. She serves as the audience’s goddess guide through the play as “She.” Pilar O’Connell attacks her roles of Parsley and Lola with a Melissa McCarthy-esque enthusiasm and dedication. Her stand-out performance is captivating and centers the musical as the heart of the piece.
In the first act, Parsley and She riffle through a garbage can in search of food. They stumble upon a half-eaten burger from Dick’s, which they devour with relish, giving the bunnies a taste for blood. When prey becomes predator, the natural order is disrupted, to great comedic effect. All of the bunnies are incredibly talented, both as an ensemble and in their individual performances. Erin Bednarz is endearing as the foul-mouthed Whisper, giving a performance with shades of Amy Schumer. Samantha Routh plays her fraternal twin, Ash. The sparring and love between these two sister bunnies is both entertaining and heartbreaking to watch. Kayla Waker is chilling as John Wayne, the leader of the bunny tribe whose questionable intentions drive the action of the second act. Sara Porkalob’s solo as Dandelion is one of the highlights of the second act as she sings a haunting melody while giving birth to her bunny babies. The scene is enhanced by a hefty emotional assist by the mesmerizing Ashlen Hodges as Buddy. Yana Kesala is highly amusing as Oreo, a bunny who goes from dilettante to warrior princess in a matter of seconds, she delivers some of the best comedic timing in the show.
Not to forget the humans, Libby Barnard is hilarious as Angela, an ill-informed activist. She like, totally, literally can’t help but try to make everything better, I mean, you know? She just can’t even believe what’s going on with the bunnies and wants to save them all, right? André Nelson gives a chameleon-like performances as five different characters, the most memorable being the creepy veterinarian. Andrew Shanks portrays a well-meaning everyman in his performance as Tim. By the end of the second act, he leads us to the gasp-inducing ending of the play which blindsides most of the audience. Horrified giggles erupt from his scene changing entrance. Noah Duffy’s crisp, angular choreography to Jesse Smith’s engaging music solidifies the bunnies as a menacing tribe and is a delight to watch.
Keiko Green hits this one out of the park. The musical is engaging from start to finish, taking twists and turns and challenging audience members to reflect on how they interact with the natural world. Kudos to Annex for producing a new work with a powerhouse female ensemble. Simply put, this show doesn’t have a weak link. The script, music, choreography, design elements and performances converge to create a ferocious, furry musical infused with the macabre. You won’t want to miss this gem of a production!
By Katie Woodzick