Sitting through a production of A Brief Narrative of an Extraordinary Birth of Rabbits is much like strapping yourself into the Titan Roller Coaster at Six Flags; catch your breath before you sit down, because you may not have a chance to do so once the performance has begun. Set amidst a circus tent backdrop, this highly animated, quickly paced show was filled to the brim with action. Music filled the air, actors barked and meowed, birthed rabbits flew, 3 gynecological puppet commentators appeared between a 6 feet pair of female legs. I was afraid if I blinked or coughed at the wrong moment, I might miss something vital. And not just in the way of action. I knew underneath all the absurdity, that playwright, C. Denby Swanson, must stating something important. What kept me on my toes and my brain engaged was the challenge of enjoying the sideshow circus antics of the piece, but not becoming so immersed in the fun that I could no longer focus on the mystery of what was at the heart of the production.
The story line of A Brief Narrative of an Extraordinary Birth of Rabbits is based around the factual 1726 hoax of Mary Toft, who tricked doctors into believing she was giving birth to rabbits. However, in the world of the play, there is no deception on Toft’s counterpart, Mare (Robin Grace Thompson), who has been asked by her infertile sister, Kitty (Halena Kays), to bare her children. To Mare’s surprise and Kitty’s abhorrence, the only things birthed are what seems to be an endless line of rabbits. It seems to be out Mare’s control…but perhaps not.
Although, themes of infertility, genetics, and reproductive technology, abound in this piece, the play seems to explore a deeper point. Perhaps most of the subtext lies in the space where imagination merges with conception or life. Is the breath of life the result of imagination? Is there a place where life and imagination can be separate? Can Mare conceive by simply imagining?
I applaud all the performers for working collectively, as a unit to add to the whole of the piece. It is rare to attend a play where the actors know the importance of give and take, and no one is striving to outshine another. The entire cast did this beautifully. Hats off to the technical crew, as well, as it is obvious they played a huge role in keeping the night’s production running smoothly. Last, but not least, is recognition of a job well done by director, Jenny Larson, who was no doubt a key element in choreographing such a flawlessly timed work of art.
So, go ahead; strap yourself in, catch your breath, and enjoy the ride that is A Brief Narrative of an Extraordinary Birth of Rabbits. — Tracy Medberry
A Brief Narrative of an Extraordinary Birth of Rabbits Through March 6. Thu.-Sat., 8pm. Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Rd, 474-7886. $15.