Salvage Vanguard Theater has made a name for themselves with original works of startling beauty throughout their many years, and with the help of Austin Scriptworks, they continue that long tradition with the latest play by award-winning Austin playwright C. Denby Swanson, A Brief Narrative of An Extraordinary Birth of Rabbits. In this strange story, a young woman, who is inseminated by her sister in hopes that she could have a child, some how gives birth to a group of 24 rabbits. Joining her along the way are a group of puppet doctors, a stork storyteller, and a man who may or may not be a dog, each trying to make sense of the bizarre events that have befallen them all.
The moment Josh Meyer’s Stork shows up on stage, audiences know they’re about to transported on one insane journey, leaving them wondering just how far down the rabbit hole they may go. Nothing can prepare one for just how strange things get, though, for just around the corner lie doctors living in side a woman’s private parts, a nurse whose job consists of little more than posing with props, a man who has the privates of a rat, and more rabbits than you could shake a stick at. The play is pure insanity of the best quality, with fantastic puppets and carnavalesque sets from acclaimed designer Connor Hopkins, bizarre music by Graham Reynolds, and intriguing costuming by Jessica Gilzow, all coming together under the seasoned hand of Jenny Larson.
With such a strange production, acting can be a difficult task, which is why we’re lucky that Salvage Vanguard has put together such a talented group actors. In the middle of the story lies Robin Grace Thompson as Mare, whose doe-eyed innocence is refreshingly endearing, and in perfect contrast to her hard, controlling sister, Kitty, played by Helena Kays. Kays is a woman with a goal, willing to step over anyone to get her child, whose robotic delivery and emotionless visage tells the audience more about her coldness than a hundred monologues ever could. Shaun Patrick Tubbs acts as the straight man to the other actors for most of the play, until he lets his hair down and lets loose as he runs around the stage barking. Josh Meyer’s Stork acts as our narrator through the piece, and his strange charisma shines throughout, helping to break through the long monologues and keep things interesting. Some of the funniest moments in the piece, however, are from actors we hardly ever see on stage. Connor Hopkins and Matt Hislope play Dr. Howard, Dr. Manningham and St. Andre, three bizarre puppets cracking jokes and throwing the off-kilter clockwork of the play into an even stranger dimension, while creating some of the most memorable moments in the whole show.
Frequent visitors to the Salvage Vanguard shows know that they’re in a for a wild ride whenever they walk in the door, but very little can prepare them for what they’ll find with C. Denby Swanson’s latest work. This latest production, directed by Jenny Larson, is like nothing an audience has ever seen, filled with wild performances and a refreshingly original script by one of the best writers in town, and is simply a must for those looking for a unique theater experience.
A Brief Narrative of an Extraordinary Birth of Rabbits is playing through March 12th at the Salvage Vanguard Theatre. For directors, ticket information, or more info on events happening at the theater, visit their website at salvagevanguard.org.