Once upon a time not long ago, young men bragged to each other about their sexual conquests, boasting of their own prowess in the bedroom and freely comparing their female partners’ anatomies. But in British playwright Nina Raine’s Rabbit, receiving its Chicago premiere at Stage Left Theatre April 20–May 26, the tables are turned. In this alternately raucous and probing comedy-drama from 2006 (earning renewed interest in the wake of Raine’s successful Tribes), it’s the women—in particular Bella, a Londoner celebrating her 29th birthday with attractive friends of both genders, including two ex-boyfriends—who are notably less than discreet when it comes to kissing and telling.
“The play investigates how sexually aggressive women have become in the 21st century and how that’s added a whole new dynamic to dating—not necessarily in a way that’s emasculating for the guys, but the roles are now confused,” says director Elly Green, a transplant from London to Chicago who consulted in person with the playwright during a recent trip back home. “The play looks at the effects of feminism and post-feminism on the self-image of these women. It asks women of the current generation: Are we moving forward with the gains our mothers fought for, or is there a backlash?”
Stage Left ensemble member Kate Black-Spence, who plays Bella, agrees. “It’s a play about gender politics in a world where nobody’s sure how to move forward anymore. Women have evolved to a place where they feel like they can talk about sex, including the fact that they have multiple partners, what the guy’s ‘package’ looks like and so forth. It’s not all as crass as that, but it’s an important aspect of the play, which you don’t see discussed in TV and movies. Men used to make all the choices, and now the women are making the choices, but that isn’t necessarily making them happy. It’s a huge step for women in the sexual revolution, but has it gone too far?”