From left, Sharon Lockwood, Marilee Talkington, Danny Scheie, Susan Lynskey and Cassidy Brown appear in the premiere of Daniel Handler’s “Imaginary Comforts, or The Story of the Ghost of the Dead Rabbit.”  (Courtesy Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre)

From left, Sharon Lockwood, Marilee Talkington, Danny Scheie, Susan Lynskey and Cassidy Brown appear in the premiere of Daniel Handler’s “Imaginary Comforts, or The Story of the Ghost of the Dead Rabbit.” (Courtesy Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre)

Daniel Handler’s ‘Dead Rabbit’ an absurdist delight at Berkeley Rep

“I am the ghost of the dead rabbit!” proclaims an earnest actor in a goofy, long-eared rabbit mask (the inimitable Danny Scheie).

And we’re off and running in beloved local writer (and sometime playwright) Daniel Handler’s slightly absurdist, slightly skewed charmer
“Imaginary Comforts, or The Story of the Ghost of the Dead Rabbit.”

Under Berkeley Repertory Theatre artistic director Tony Taccone’s sure hand, this world premiere (developed in the Rep’s Ground Floor program), about the power of storytelling — and love, and ghosts — to console and redirect lost souls, is funny and affecting.

A recently deceased patriarch, Dr. Gold (warmly portrayed by Julian Lopez-Morillas with a spot-on New York-Jewish accent), used to tell a favorite story to his daughter, Sarah (Susan Lynskey, caustic to just the right degree), when she was young.

Both were somehow haunted by it.

That story, about a rabbit and a changeling and a curse, with a strange ending that the various characters interpret in different ways, is woven thematically into the entire play, which rolls out nonlinearly.

Set on a revolving stage so that one scene can morph fluidly to another (simple and canny design by Todd Rosenthal), the action takes place at Dr. Gold’s funeral, where a well-intentioned but incompetent rent-a-rabbi (Marilee Talkington, continually in a hilarious dither) manages to alienate everyone; at a café where the rabbi and one of Dr. Gold’s alcoholic patients (played by an excellent Michael Goorjian) first meet, having arranged a date on an internet site; in the office of a cut-rate bookkeeper (a brilliantly gruff Jarion Monroe), who was Dr. Gold’s friend; and elsewhere.

All the characters are suffering from personal angst of one sort or another — from alcoholism to a sense of loss and despair and hopelessness — including two characters that don’t have enough to do and probably shouldn’t be in the play at all (although well performed by Cassidy Brown and the great comic talent Sharon Lockwood), and it’s great fun to track how most of the relationships intersect in unexpected ways.

True, the chronology is at times confusing. And the core story of the rabbit ghost itself, told in its entirety by father to daughter in an awkwardly paced scene, feels a bit underwritten, lacking the impact it should have.

But no matter — Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) — is delightfully on his game here.

REVIEW

Imaginary Comforts, or The Story of the Ghost of the Dead Rabbit
Presented by Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Where: Peet’s Theatre, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays-Fridays, 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays; closes Nov. 19
Tickets: $45 to $97
Contact: (510) 647-2949 or www.berkeleyrep.orgCassidy BrownDaniel HandlerDanny ScheieImaginary ComfortsJulian Lopez-MorillasMarilee Talkingtonor The Story of the Ghost of the Dead RabbitSharon LockwoodSusan LynskeyTheaterTony Taccone

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs spoke to San Francisco’s new Guaranteed Income Advisory Group on April 16. (Courtesy SFGOV)
City launches task force to explore Universal Basic Income programs

San Francisco on Friday launched a guaranteed income task force that could… Continue reading

Muni’s K-Ingleside line will return six months earlier than previously announced. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
K-Ingleside train to return on May 15

Announcement comes on the heels of pressure from Supervisor Myrna Melgar

Demonstrators march from Mission High School towards the San Francisco Police station on Valencia Street. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Vigil, march honors those killed by police

Deaths of Daunte Wright, Roger Allen and others prompt renewed calls for defunding

A Recology employee stands at the comapany’s recycling facility on Pier 96 in 2016. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)
Nuru scandal: Feds charge second former Recology executive with bribery

A second former Recology executive is facing charges for allegedly bribing ex-Public… Continue reading

Skier Andy Padlo crosses a frozen Spicer Reservoir. (Courtesy photo)
Stormy weather tests skiers’ mettle on Dardanelle traverse

Overcoming challenges makes outings more rewarding

Most Read