Gilda Radner, "Saturday Night Live" actress and comedienne, and "SNL" writer Alan Zweibel were best friends for nearly 15 years. Though never lovers, they shared an eccentric kinship until her death from cancer in May 1989. Zweibel wrote a book about their relationship which he turned into a stage play that world-premiered at Philadelphia Theatre Company's Plays & Players Theatre Dec. 1996. Now the same cast will take the play to Off-Broadway's Lucille Lortel Theatre, opening March 23.
Though a comedy, Bunny Bunny does follow the full arc of Zweibel and Radner's friendship, ending with the playwright's eulogy for the actress.
Christopher Ashley, best known for directing the Off-Broadway, L.A. and film versions of Paul Rudnick's Jeffrey, directs Bunny Bunny (as he did at PTC). "When long-time PCT director Christopher Ashley brought Bunny Bunny to our attention," noted Philadelphia Theatre Company producing artistic director Sara Garonzik, "it seemed like a perfect pairing of two creative minds. We have been admirers of Alan Zweibel's work since 1985 when we produced his delightful one-act, Between Cars.." Bunny Bunny is Philadelphia Theatre Company's 24th world premiere -- a track record that includes Terrence McNally's Master Class.
After his "Saturday Night Live" years, Zweibel wrote for the television program as "It's Garry Shandling's Show" and on the Rob Reiner film, "North" (based on Zweibel's own novel). Bunny Bunny was workshopped at Vassar's New York Stage & Film in 1995.
Starring in Bunny Bunny are Paula Cale as Gilda and Bruno Kirby as Alan, with recent Juilliard graduate Alan Tudyk playing all other roles in the piece. Cale was seen in The Night Of The Iguana both on Broadway and at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. Bruno Kirby, best known as a film actor (Good Morning Vietnam, The Freshman) has appeared on stage in Lost In Yonkers and on Broadway in Geniuses. The high profile design team for Bunny Bunny includes David Gallo (sets), Michael Lincoln (lighting) and David Woolard (costumes). Gallo is best known for his work on the Angels In America tour and Blue Man Group in Boston. Lincoln co-designed Broadway's current Skylight; Woolard has designed for Broadway's Tommy and Damn Yankees revival.
Bunny Bunny starts performances at the Lortel Theatre on Christopher St., March 11. For tickets ($35 prev, $40 reg), which go on sale Feb. 17, and information on Bunny Bunny, call (212) 239 6200.
-- By David Lefkowitz