Bunny deals frankly and honestly with female sexuality

BUNNY by Hannah Moscovitch (Tarragon, 30 Bridgman). Runs to April 1. $20-$60. 416-531-1827, tarragontheatre.com. See listing. Rating: NNNNIf the last.


BUNNY by Hannah Moscovitch (Tarragon, 30 Bridgman). Runs to April 1. $20-$60. 416-531-1827, tarragontheatre.com. See listing. Rating: NNNN

If the last half a year has taught us anything, its that human sexuality is a complex thing, often shrouded in secrecy and shame as well as pleasure all things that crop up with frank honesty in Hannah Moscovitchs stunning play Bunny.

Sorrel (Maev Beaty) is a Victorian literature prof who, in the midst of a possibly life-changing event, takes stock of her life, especially her relationships with men.

The daughter of two left-leaning professors in a small Southern Ontario university, she grew up friendless and socially awkward, her nose constantly in a Jane Austen or George Eliot novel. When she reaches puberty, boys start noticing her, and then… well, she just starts exploring, provoking the judgment of her female peers.

In high school she dates Justin (Tony Ofori), a football player who hasnt heard about her reputation, and eventually she drops him ruthlessly in university, her brain suddenly a valued commodity, she attracts the notice of her professor (Cyrus Lane) and of Carol (Matthew Edison), the conservative older brother of her first and only female friend, Maggie (Rachel Cairns).

And once established as a professor herself, shes tempted by a situation that hits uncomfortably close to home and could hurt many.

Harkening back to her earlier works like Little One and The Russian Play, Moscovitch structures a lot of the play as a monologue, spoken by Sorrel in the third person while shes doing something else.

Beaty, her head tilting just so to address us like shes delivering a particularly juicy lecture, is comic perfection in these moments. But she also gets to show off her enormous range, growing from an awkward child to a self-conscious teen to a woman discovering both her own power and the power others have over her.

Its a fully inhabited, lived-in performance, full of authentic tics, bold physicality and in the plays moving climax a confession that will put a lump in your throat because you know how much it costs her character to say it.

The supporting actors are fine, especially Edison as the stolid, supportive Carol, and Lane as the smug, conflicted professor. Cairns, so memorable in Tarragons recent Hamlet, brings a special energy and cadence to the younger Maggie, but I wish the script gave us more to see how her friendship with Sorrel developed.

Director Sarah Garton Stanleys production is exquisite, the action playing out with swiftness and clarity on Michael Gianfrancescos set, dominated by a circular area of grass and lit sensitively by Nick Andison to help signal shifts in time and mood.

What a gorgeous backdrop to a timely, necessary play and one of the best performances of this or any season.

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