Review: Bunny Bunny (Mercury Theater)

| March 15, 2018

Dana Tretta stars as Gilda Radner in Bunny Bunny, A Sort of Love Story, Mercury Theater Chicago            
      

  

Bunny Bunny: Gilda Radner
    A (sort of) Love Story

Written by Alan Zweibel
Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport (map)
thru April 15  |  tix: $30-$55  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


Now extended thru April 15

  

Sweet, wistful and funny tribute

  

Dana Tretta stars as Gilda Radner in Bunny Bunny, A Sort of Love Story at Mercury Theater Chicago

    
Mercury Theater Chicago presents
    
Bunny Bunny: Gilda Radner, A (sort of) Love Story

Review by Lauren Whalen

Gilda Radner was nothing short of a legend. She was the first person cast on “Saturday Night Live,” and one of only three original cast members who didn’t use cocaine. When Radner died of ovarian cancer in 1990, her SNL writing partner and best friend Alan Zweibel set out to honor her legacy. Bunny Bunny: Gilda Radner, A (Sort of) Love Story is based on Zweibel’s book of the same name, chronicling his loving but complex relationship with a woman who brought over-the-top characters to life, threw parties for Jackson Evans as Alan Zweibel and Dana Tretta as Gilda Radner in Bunny, Bunny at Mercury Theatrecleaning staff and, like most comedians, knew her share of struggles. Mercury Theater Chicago’s production is lovely: equal parts raucous, gently humorous and heart-wrenching.

Eventually, Alan Zweibel (Jackson Evans) authored multiple books, plays and screenplays. He worked with top-notch actors and produced “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”  His ongoing career spans decades. But in the mid-1970s, Zweibel was a terrified young writer, hiding behind a potted plant at 30 Rockefeller Center before his first meeting. The outgoing Radner (Dana Tretta), whose star is on the rise, quickly befriends him and they become professional collaborators. (Zweibel created Radner’s iconic character Roseanne Rosannadanna.) ‘Gilbert’, as Zweibel calls Radner, is generous and boisterous, but also struggles with bulimia and insecurity, with wildly varying reactions to life in the spotlight. When Zweibel falls in love with her, things get even more complicated.

Zweibel is as adept at playwriting as he is with comedy. Bunny Bunny is chock-full of humor, but doesn’t stray from the darker moments in Zweibel and Radner’s relationship. Though romantic feelings exist on both sides, the timing is never quite right for Alan and Gilda. He gets sexually frustrated, she confronts him about his drug use, and they both deal with heartbreak from each other and outside parties. Gilda is an emotional handful, but so is Alan, and in that way and many others, they’re oddly perfect for one another. Director Warner Crocker honors Zweibel’s script with quick pacing and snappy timing, and never once dips into schmaltz. Jacqueline and Richard Penrod’s borderline genius set design aptly imagines the backstage worlds of New York and Los Angeles, and Mike Przygoda’s sound design is full of fun, period-specific incidental music.

Jackson Evans as Alan Zweibel, Jason Grimm, and Dana Tretta as Gilda Radner in Bunny, Bunny at Mercury Theatre ChicagoDana Tretta stars as Gilda Radner in Bunny Bunny, A Sort of Love Story, Mercury Theater ChicagoJackson Evans as Alan Zweibel and Dana Tretta as Gilda Radner in Bunny Bunny, Mercury Theatre 2

Actor Jason Grimm has a great time playing “Everyone Else” (characters ranging from a coughing, hacking waiter to Gilda’s blubbery high school friend). Meanwhile, Evans is the very picture of Jewish neuroses, and his Zweibel is achingly real: maddening, sympathetic and increasingly comfortable in his own skin. And Tretta’s Gilda Radner is spot-on. Hilarious and vulnerable, she nails every moment. Separately and together, Zweibel and Radner were complicated people, and both actors recognize and play each nuance, as well as establishing a natural, realistic rapport.

It’s helpful to know Gilda Radner’s body of work, particularly on SNL, before watching Bunny Bunny. That said, Chicago is a perfect city for this play, with its legacy of comedy and the people who make it. Bunny Bunny is smart and wistful, a wonderful tribute to Gilda Radner, the people who supported her, and the ground she broke as a small woman who wasn’t afraid to go big.

  
Rating: ★★★
  

Bunny Bunny continues through April 1st   April 15th at Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 N. Southport (map), with performances Wednesdays-Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 3pm &b 8pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $30-$55, and are available by phone (312-325-1700) or through Vendini.com (check for availability of half-price tickets). More info at MercuryTheaterChicago.com(Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes, includes an intermission)

Jackson Evans as Alan Zweibel and Dana Tretta as Gilda Radner in Bunny Bunny, Mercury Theatre

Photos by Brett A. Beiner


  

artists

cast

Dana Tretta (Gilda Radner), Jackson Evans (Alan Zweibel), Jason Grimm (Everyone Else)

Understudies: Anna Segatti, Jake Bradley

behind the scenes

Warner Crocker (director), Jacqueline and Richard Penrod (scenic design), Kristof Janezic (lighting design), Mike Przygoda (sound design), Kristi J. Martens (production stage manager), Jason Shivers (production manager, master electrician), Carl Wahlstrom (sound board engineer), Serena Sandoval (wardrobe, wig supervisor), Kevin Barthel (wig and hair design), Sophia Briones (properties design), Johnnie Schleyer (technical director), Jake Bradley and Anna Segatti (stagehands), Brett A. Beiner (promotional photographer), Nadine Heidinger (graphic designer)

Dana Tretta as Gilda Radner and Jackson Evans as Alan Zweibel in Bunny Bunny, Mercury Theatre

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Category: 2018 Reviews, Comedy, Lauren Emily Whalen, Mercury Theater

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