Jugged Rabbit Stew is a hare-raising experience

Last produced four years ago, Jugged Rabbit Stew is one of Buntport's best shows, a startling and peculiar mix of comedy, sadness, magic, craziness and erudition that only this troupe could produce. And this revival brings back Evan Weissman, a longtime member who left — sort of — a while back to create a political organization called Warm Cookies of the Revolution. "The plan would be if there are any remounts, we'll try to have me involved as long as that's possible," he says. "It's not like a clean break; I'm still around all the time, but I'm not working on the next show. I won't write for that or be in it. It's kind of like breaking away from family — even if you want to, you can't. And I don't want to."

As for Warm Cookies, it's "a civic health club," he explains. "You go to a gym for physical health or church for spiritual health. This is a place to exercise your civic health, to discuss vital issues in a fun way. I think Buntport is a part of that. We're trying to engage people; theater and art does that. But with Warm Cookies, it's a little less abstract, and I'm interested in trying it out right now because I feel we're on the precipice and need to push back pretty hard to create the world we want."

Buntport has created quite a world in Jugged Rabbit Stew. Weissman plays Alec, the Amazing and All-Powerful, an impotent magician with rock-star delusions who can't actually can't perform a single trick without the help of the real creator of magic — Snowball, a scruffy, mean-spirited rabbit currently on strike. Snowball (Erik Edborg) spends his time stealing objects that have no meaning for him but whose loss will upset their rightful owners: a video of a student's high-school graduation, for instance. He lives in a strange, bare place with an array of stolen objects suspended from the ceiling, a wall covered with overlapping newspapers, and several televisions on which he watches home movies — video of rabbits, that is. In addition to the inanimate objects he's filched, he has stolen the legs of Marla, the magician's assistant (Hannah Duggan), replacing them with the overall-clad limbs of a workman so that she can no longer dance. Also missing is Alec's right Arm (played by Brian Colonna) which, detached from its owner, now wanders the world on its own. Snowball's kleptomania has reached such dangerous levels that among his acquisitions is a cheerful young Woman (Erin Rollman) he spotted in the audience, fell in love with and spirited away to his lair.

Weissman says he's glad he returned for this play "because it gives us the opportunity to be really silly and have a few genuine moments. And every actor wants to be a rock star, and this is my opportunity to fake that." He likes the segment when the Arm falls in love and sings a duet (composed, like all the scintillating songs in the show, by Adam Stone). "That's pretty great," Weissman says, "the idea that this disembodied thing has thoughts and feelings of its own and a sense of fate and love. And I like the concluding bit when my arm gets put back on me, which is sad for Arm and his love, but kind of magical."

All the action revolves around Snowball, who — despite his depradations on their persons — is profoundly loved by both Marla and Alec. He's as complex a character as a man in a scruffy white bunny suit can be — constantly vengeful, but also terrified by the threat implied in the play's title. While Arm, having found his love, proudly assumes the role of hero in an old-style Western, Snowball ponders his fate as tragic hero, and Woman prattles chirpily about Aristotelian heroes, Byronic heroes and anti-heroes. Each member of Buntport brings a unique and specific quality to the stage; Weissman has often been, paradoxically, both the most sincere and the nuttiest. It's a delight to watch his Alec, dauntless and cheerful despite the missing arm, prancing around in yellow shoes and singing his heart out about "That Special Hare."

"It feels great to be on stage with each other," he says. "We have a common aesthetic; we think the same things are funny. We've worked together so long, there's something seamless about it."

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Juliet Wittman is an investigative reporter and critic with a passion for theater, literature, social justice and food. She has reviewed theater for Westword for over a decade; for many years, she also reviewed memoirs for the Washington Post. She has won several journalism awards and published essays and short stories in literary magazines. Her novel, Stocker's Kitchen, can be obtained at select local bookstores and on Amazon.
Contact: Juliet Wittman