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Vicki’s View : Bunbury gives life to various unseen literary characters at the Long Beach Playhouse

April 24th, 2008 · No Comments · Vicki's View

vicki.jpgThe Long Beach Playhouse has taken what could be both a giant leap and a swan dive with Bunbury, a flight of fancy that turns all of great literature on its ear.
Based on a nonexistent “character” from my favorite play, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Bunbury brings the device Bunbury to life in some sort of literary purgatory not unlike those times when Kirk and Spock took the Enterprise back in time to correct some catastrophic event that had changed all of history. In this case, Bunbury, with Shakespeare’s Rosaline in tow, does the double deed. He purposely causes the literary upheaval and, acknowledging his error, conscientiously puts things right again.bunbury107.jpg
Stephen Peirick, as Bunbury, prances through this gay romp of a play turning every tragic ending into a happier one. If only the play hadn’t gone so far as to turn Algernon Moncrief, my favorite character from Earnest, into a gay guy. That one was harder for me to swallow than Romeo and Juliet surviving to see multi-parenthood.
Peirick’s no-holds-barred performance entertains us at the very least. A good match to Peirick, Daina Baker Bowler deftly delivers a valley girl version of Rosaline, another character who never actually appears in her play. Bowler’s Rosaline suits the play’s silliness and had me giggling more than once.
Things got a little amateurish when Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” appeared as a peacock who quoth “anytime” in lieu of “nevermore.” Even so, it was one of my favorite scenes.
Bun and Roz also have their way with The Three Sisters, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Waiting for Godot.
Written by Tom Jacobson, Bunbury certainly embodies a clever idea. Most of it even works. But I can’t help thinking the play might be a tough sell to mainstream audiences who may not be familiar with all of the classic works it adulterates. (I certainly wasn’t.) At the very least, it helps to know something about Wilde’s Earnest.
Robert Craig directs the fine cast, which also includes David Cramer, David Rusiecki, Andrew Vonderschmitt, Ann Tyler Allen and Hellena Taylor.
Like its forerunner Earnest, Bunbury is billed as “A Serious Play for Trivial People.” Perhaps this characterization also attempts to stress the significance of the play’s rather anomalous ending, in which Bobby Kennedy has lived to become the U.S. president. As such we are no doubt obliged to consider that the lives of Bunbury, and others like him, mean something even though they don’t exist. Heh?
Bunbury continues at the Long Beach Playhouse Studio Theatre through May 31. General admission tickets are $22.00; $20.00 for seniors. Student tickets are $12.00 with valid student ID and are available for Friday and Saturday performances. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees on April 27, May 18 and 25 at 2 p.m. Call (562) 494-1014 for reservations and information. Tickets are also available online at www.lbph.com.

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