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"And if you go chasing rabbits": White Rabbit at New Langton Arts

By Summi Kaipa

What did I expect when I heard that Kevin Killian's new play, White Rabbit, would be premiering at New Langton Arts? A Temptation Island episode with the likes of Siegfried and Roy, Claudia Schiffer, and Arnold Schwarzenegger sounded like a strange combo for such an otherwise sexually charged show, where the usual candidates are married couples tested by the throes of apparently lusty babes. Well, aside from the suspiciously funny premise of reality television as the plot of this play, Killian's premiere has nothing, thankfully, in common with the melodrama of such a show.

Instead, in Killian's version of TI, the producer constantly interjects a past history as a Fluxus artist (!), and there's barely of drop of sexual tension between any of the characters — least of all, Siegfried and Roy, the white animal training duo, who vaguely insist on their non-homosexual "kind of love." (Siegfried, played by Cliff Hengst, wears the creepiest blonde wig, making him all the more hideously campy.) Indeed, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who claims his biceps are "the Alps of the body," agrees to go on the show, after an agitating conversation with Maria Shriver, who lies about the specifics of her Kennedy heritage. Meanwhile the burnt-out and doped-up Nico and her son, Ari, are convinced by the host of the show (played by effervescent Kevin Killian) that their appearance will get them enough money for more drugs.

Throwing more fuel into the fire, this version of TI takes place on our own, beautiful and banished Angel Island. The play, while it delves into our fascination with European celebs, also brings it back home to San Francisco, where our own mayor, slick Willie Brown, is wooed by an apparent Fassbinder actress — an obvious jab at our city's strange fascination with European high and low culture. All this, with the backdrop of hobbypopMUSEUMS's residency, comprised of pseudo-tropical paintings, a loose bundle of 2 X 4's, and commercial breaks with collage advertisement pieces like subtle and entertaining Adbusters spoofs.

And if you've begun to think that this play's already got a million things going for it, throw in the literal and metaphorical presence of the white rabbit. Three little bunnies hop around in the play as depressing companions to Arnold, Ari, and Claudia Schiffer. They sometimes utter cryptic, clairvoyant messages, while at other times, they bounce around like Teletubbies. Are they good luck charms? Drug-induced states? Test bunnies? Digital holograms?

All this musing about Europeans and furry white creatures barely does justice to the witty dialogue that Killian scripted, the put-together humor that a staged reading allows, and the excellent performances by the hobbypopMUSEUM actors and the San Francisco Poets' Theater, with San Francisco "rock stars" Glen Helfand, Rex Ray, and Norma Cole. An especially stellar performance by a near dead Nico (played by the mesmerizing Marie-Celine Schäfer who really does have a good voice) tops off the evening, leading the chorus singing "one pill makes you larger/ And one pill makes you small."

The second staged reading of White Rabbit takes place at New Langton Arts Friday, October 12, 8 pm. Tickets are $10 general admission, $8 members, students, & seniors.
For reservations call 415.626.5416.

hobbypopMUSEUM's installation White Rabbit is open to the public Wednesday - Saturday, 12 pm - 5 pm through October 13. Admission is free.