Theater review: Gamut Classic Theatre offers joy and pain of Gilda Radner's life

Published: Thursday, January 26, 2012, 6:16 AM
The Patriot-News
BY DAVE OLMSTED, For The Patriot-News   

If you are suffering from the winter doldrums — don’t despair, because Gamut Classic Theatre has the cure. Its current production of “Bunny Bunny: Gilda Radner: A Sort of Love Story” will warm you up and put a smile on your face.

Growing up, I was a huge fan of “Saturday Night Live” and “The Not Ready for Prime Time Players” that featured the zany antics of Gilda Radner. I would often stay up past my bedtime just to catch a snippet of the show and revel in the multitude of characters she created from Baba Waba, Lisa Loopner, Emily Litella, Judy Miller and, of course, the infamous Roseanne Roseannadanna.

You do get to see a few of these endearing characters in the play, but more importantly, you get to know Gilda, the woman behind the brilliance.

Christina Closs does an astounding job as Gilda Radner. She not only captures the nuances of the “SNL” characters, but more importantly, she opens up her heart to the tortured soul beneath.

Throughout her life, Miss Radner battled with bulimia, her relationships and herself. Miss Closs takes the audience on a journey of discovery as we learn about this comic genius, and she does it effortlessly. From her physical contortions to her melodious voice, she would have made Gilda proud.

By her side and narrating the story is the playwright Alan Zweibel, portrayed by Randy Hodson. Zweibel was one of the original writers on “SNL” and a constant companion of Radner’s.

They had an amazingly complex and unconventional relationship for almost 14 years. Mr. Hodson is spot on as the nebbishy writer who blossoms under Gilda’s charms. He holds his own through many outrageous situations, a personal favorite being the scene on the train when Gilda does her best to make an old rival jealous.

David Ramon Zayas plays everyone else. And by that, I mean more than 27 other memorable characters. His skills are mesmerizing as he, chameleonlike, alters body and voice within seconds to portray an entirely new persona. Standouts were Andy Warhol, a distraught cab driver, a phone operator and a multitude of fans at a basketball game. Mr. Zayas deserves to have his own sitcom where his comic skills could entertain the masses.

Under the direction of J. Clark Nicholson, the show exudes the warmth of a devoted Gilda fan. He finds the right balance between the humor and the pathos of the script and his clever staging moves us from a train to Studio 54 to a New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden with ease.

This is aided by Ian Potter’s scenic design that allows the scenes to seamlessly blend as the three actors shift minimal scenery around as we travel with them from New York to Los Angeles and back again. I also enjoyed the sound design by Michael Banks that helped the transitions and set the mood.

Radner was an amazing woman who had an assortment of real-life friends who were just as zany as the characters she created. Sadly, she left us too soon.

Fortunately, Gamut’s production of “Bunny Bunny” gives us another chance to enjoy her life, her loves and her laughter. Do yourself a favor and see this show — you’ll be glad you did.

“Bunny Bunny: Gilda Radner: A Sort of Love Story” runs through Feb. 5 at Gamut Classic Theatre, 605 Strawberry Square, Harris­burg. Show times: 7:30 p.m. Fri­day and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Cost: $27 general ad­mission, $17 student/senior. Info:, 717-238-4111

Dave Olmsted may be reached at

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