People like to go on and on about the sanctity and wholesomeness of childhood, elevating the refreshing honesty and unswerving innocence that little kids possess to some kind of pre-conscious enlightenment status. All this may very well be true (until they learn swear words from their older siblings or start filching copies of Barely Legal from Dad’s top dresser drawer, that is), but what’s often ignored is the other side of this equation: that the same ingenuous nature that prompts the little dears to comment on Daddy’s incipient hair loss or the size of Mommy’s butt also forces them to demand, without compromise, anything that grabs their attention. Anybody who’s been in close proximity to a child in the throes of this particular fit of rapaciousness needs no further proof that young children are nothing but slobbering ids, capable of little more than hunger, pain, and want. And all the precious posed Olan Mills photos can’t hide that fact.
Katie Fleischer’s “Bun-Bun” shows us this darker side. As it opens, Couples #1 and #2 (both with little daughters) are celebrating Daughter #2’s birthday. Couple #1 has obtained for her a hard-to-find stuffed rabbit, which the delighted little girl immediately christens Bun-Bun. Unfortunately for the generous pair, their own daughter decides she wants a Bun-Bun for herself. She buries her other stuffed animals in the sandbox, she cries for Bun-Bun at 5:00 in the morning, she refuses to eat. Her parents search for another Bun-Bun, to no avail. They next attempt to throw her off the scent by buying her a litter of assorted stuffed rabbits. Finally, they try being firm. Nothing works. The marriage suffers.
Opportunity presents himself in the form of a dinner party thrown by Couple #2, whose daughter enjoys an idyllic existence with her beloved Bun-Bun. Predictably, Couple #1 strengthens their marriage with an act of shared larceny, and anyone who criticizes their actions has obviously never lain awake in the wee hours listening to a squalling baby who just won’t. Shut. Up.
Fleischer has put together a surprisingly professional looking production, and one that smartly captures Couple #1’s growing frustration and borderline insanity. The performances are uniformly capable, but especially Susan Blackwell’s (Changing Lanes) as the harried stay-at-home mom. “Bun-Bun” is, at its heart, an amusing slice of parental life. However, beneath the upper middle-class façade we’re given a glimpse of the voracious beast often lurking behind all those freckles and dimples.