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, Bunny Bunny currently at the Lucille Lortel Theatre Off Broadway. The show began previews March 11, opened March 23, and was recently nominated for a best play Outer Critics Circle Award.
Gilda's Club, a support community for people with cancer founded by Radner's husband, Gene Wilder, and her cancer psychotherapist, Joanna Bull, and named for the late comic actress, will hold its Spring Benefit at the May 6 performance of Bunny Bunny. $50 tickets include a post show discussion with stars Paula Kale, Bruno Kirby and Alan Tudyk. For tickets, call (212) 647-9700.
The show world-premiered in late 1996 at Philadelphia Theatre Company's Plays & Players Theatre.
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 staging the Off-Broadway, L.A. and film versions of Paul Rudnick's Jeffrey, directs Bunny Bunny. "When long-time PCT director Christopher Ashley brought Bunny Bunny to our attention," said 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.." After his "Saturday Night Live" years, Zweibel wrote for the television program "It's Garry Shandling's Show" and worked 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 Cale as Gilda and Kirby as Alan, with recent Juilliard graduate 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. 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, presented by Bernie Brillstein, James D. Stern, Brad Grey and Harriet Newman, plays at the Lucille Lortel Theatre on Christopher St. For tickets ($35-$45) and information on Bunny Bunny, call (212) 239-6200.
-- By David Lefkowitz