Truth or Dare 

Fluffy Bunnies doesn't always work, but it's very genuine when it does.

Oh, it's crass. And explicit. There is talk of bukkake, a category of Japanese porn that can't possibly qualify as safer sex. Within the first five minutes there's simulated cunnilingus; within the first ten, one man has said to another, in reference to finding something unexpected in a lover's vulva, "If you get up there again, could you poke around for my television remote?" Gilligan's Island is taken in vain. The characters drink steadily, stand each other up for the flimsiest of reasons, play humiliating mind games, and break each other's hearts.

And it's very funny, and very true. Welcome to the twilight world of Fluffy Bunnies in a Field of Daisies, a self-assured first play from Los Angeles' Matt Chaffee now squishing its way through an Impact Theatre run at LaVal's. Centered on a group of friends who hang out in a bar on the weekends, mostly giving each other bad advice about love, Fluffy Bunnies takes some serious pokes at popular notions and common myths around dating, sex, and commitment. If she's wearing a diaphragm on the first date, is she a slut? Has the woman you think has slept with everyone really slept with everyone? Who can you trust? And are all the women the playwright knows really waitresses of one kind or another, or is that just an easy device to make the women easy for the men to track down?

The acting ranges from adequate to very good. Emily Rosenthal's Re is tart and sassy, but what is she hiding? Two men in particular draw the eye: Greg Ayers' Baby Boy, whose sloppily earnest pickup technique embarrasses the hell out of his friends, and the clueless Nick (played by director Ryan Montgomery), whose endless mastication of a recurring dream about a lamp factory embarrasses the hell out of his friends. Nick is wondering if he should get back together with his ex-girlfriend Tessa -- it doesn't appear to be True Love, but is it possible that he just wasn't giving enough to the relationship the first time to know whether it could become something good? Montgomery handles the uncertainty and neediness of the character well. The moment when Nick asks, "Is it lame being thirty in a bar and talking about my problems with women?" was one of the realest moments I'd seen in stage in quite a while.

The first act is full of stuff like this -- believable, genuine, and tight -- and hence is really funny. And then there's the second act, where the story often slows to a crawl. Much of the obvious crawl centers on the one woman who's an honest-to-God prostitute. It's no fault of the stately Klahr Thorsen, whose Lindsey is elegant and tasteful; the part is just overwritten, as if Chaffee were concerned that since we don't see much of Lindsey in the first act we have to see a lot of her in the second. The scene where she deals with a recalcitrant vendor on the phone is only slightly more excruciating than the one where she rates Nick's performance on a date. The best part of the latter scene is two lines: "This was a date, not an inspection," he insists, to which Lindsey replies: "What do you think dates are?" We could learn just as much, or more, about the character without so much dialogue -- indeed, it's as if she wasn't as clear in Chaffee's mind as his other characters, and he overwrote to compensate for the fact that he didn't know this character as well.

But that aside, somewhere between the going down and the getting it up, Fluffy Bunnies has surprisingly textured and incisive moments, familiar to anyone who dares to date, and relishes telling the tale.

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