In the promotional blurb, Kit Brookman’s new play – A Rabbit for Kim Jong-Il – is described as “a cunning comic thriller spanning two continents,” as being “crammed with secret agents, espionage, [and] double-crossings,” and as being “a pointed parable about betrayal and forgiveness, greed and regret.” The only trouble is, it’s not quite any of those things, least of all a thriller.
Incredibly based on a true story, A Rabbit for Kim Jong-Il follows Johann, a German rabbit-breeder, as he learns that his rabbits have piqued the interest of the Dear Leader of the Democratic People’s
, and have been ear-marked as a
special ingredient in his upcoming birthday celebrations. As Johann learns the
fate of his rabbits, he sets out to recover them at whatever cost, putting them
and himself in great(er) danger. Republic of Korea
Directed by Lee Lewis, A Rabbit feels a bit like a play that started out well-enough, but got lost on the way to the airport and never quite recovered. Kit Brookman’s writing is, for the most part, well-meaning and humorous, but lacks the bite that could make this play more keenly felt. Brookman (who also plays the role of the Felix, the lead rabbit) has created scenes which meander along, only kicking into gear after a couple of minutes, and never quite managing the sting or brevity that would add to the pace and the ‘thrilling’ intentions of the piece, and create the necessary tension to keep us engaged. There are several scenes which feel rather out of place, both in terms of not-quite-fitting into the flow of the story, as well as seeming to be part of a much different (and stranger) play, and I’m not sure if the play would suffer if they were trimmed down or removed.
At only one-hundred minutes long, this Rabbit feels a lot longer and heavier than it should, though this is in no way due to Lewis’ cast who all try their hardest. Steve Rodgers is endearingly bumbling as Johann; Brookman’s softly-spoken rabbit is perhaps too meek for his own good; Kaeng Chan’s dapper henchman is at first menacing but loses his power to instigate change as the play progresses; Mémé Thorne’s high-ranking intelligence officer is efficient but we never really feel she poses much of a threat to anyone, least of all Brookman’s rabbit; while Kate Box’s secret agent brings energy and focus to her scenes, but it is not enough to inject some comedy or caper-plot hijinks into the play’s unfolding.
While some will (and do) find the ending touching, it is not enough to save this Rabbit.