A Play In A Day 2

Bunny Rabbit In A Box Of Chocolates

By - Aug 1st, 2007 02:52 pm
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As 8 p.m. neared on the night of July 21st, people milled about the Broadway Theatre Center. Casual conversation drifted through the lazy summer evening as show time approached. Alamo Basement had been at it for nearly 24 hours – writing and rehearsing the show that was about to make its debut that night. The Play In A Day concept is deliciously simple – get a group of people together (playwrights, actors, etc… ) and give them 24 hours to develop an entire feature-length play that they will then perform. Alamo Basement did something much like this last year. It was successful enough that they decided to do it again.

Not long after the scheduled start time, Alamo Basement co-founder Michael Q. Hanlon and the play’s director Chris Scholke introduced the show. Taking suggestions from the audience, the title Bunny Rabbit In A Box Of Chocolates was chosen. Then the script was auctioned off to the highest bidder. A gentleman in the front row ended up winning the script, paying some $30 for something about which he, like the rest of us, probably knew almost nothing. After these small bits of business, the play began for the 50 or so people in attendance.

A comedy set in a hotel in Transylvania, Bunny Rabbit In A Box of Chocolates was exceedingly entertaining. The script had been passed through a series of local DIY playwrights over the course of the 24 hours leading up to the performance. Pink Banana Theatre guru John Manno (Golden Apollo) got the script first. He worked with the actors to get a general feel for what the actors were interested in and went to work. The ensemble played characters they had a hand in developing, which made for an interesting stage dynamic during the actual performance. Alamo Basement co-founder Mike Q. Hanlon (who also served as one of the playwrights) played the hotel concierge, a classic comic straight man with a bit of a feral twist toward the end. The cast of characters parading through the hotel included a pair of honeymooning Wisconsinites with a sexual fetish for the history of warfare, a socialist hotel worker and his wife (a sexy maid with an inexplicable New York accent), a pair of dim-witted traveling thieves, a world-famous scientist and her eager assistant, a deposed Eastern European princess and others.

In addition to Hanlon and Manno, playwrights included Peter J. Woods (Made In The Mouth) and Rex Winsome (co-founder of Insurgent Theatre). The script was remarkably coherent for something that four people took turns writing with very little sleep. Light comedies and farces try to capture a certain kind of mindless guilty fun, but something invariably gets lost in endless rehearsals. Impov comedy emulates freshness by giving the illusion of spontaneity, but all too often it’s simply actors forming pre-existing, pre-formulated characters and skits around audience suggestions. With Play In A Day, Alamo Basement seems to have hit on a sense of vitality that’s so glaringly missing in contemporary theatre. So little of the play (which ran around two hours) felt dull or disinteresting. In spite of having come at the end of an exhaustive 24-hour incubation period, the show maintained an irreverent energy for its entire time onstage. From beginning to end, this year’s Play In A Day was one of the most thoroughly enjoyable productions to hit the stage in greater Milwaukee this season. VS

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