Puck Bunnies (Stage 12, Varscona Theatre)
By Marc Horton
Do not confuse a puck bunny with a buckle bunny. The former is sexually obsessed with hockey players while the latter feels the same way about rodeo cowboys.
Badge bunnies want to get it on with cops and crosstitutes favour lacrosse players. It can be a complicated business but make no mistake, puck bunnies rule.
This latest offering from Guys in Disguise, probably the most successful Fringe franchise in history, is a look into small town life where the hockey rink is a cultural hub and players are gods.
Written by Trevor Schmidt and Darrin Hagen, which is as close to a guarantee of Fringe success as you can get, this one-hour rapid-fire production focuses on three puck bunnies who are sitting in the stands of the local rink watching the Panthers, their favourite team, take to the ice. So dedicated is this trio, that it’s not even a game, but a scrimmage, for God’s sake.
There’s Tammy, whose desperation is perfectly captured by Hagen, Tonya, played wonderfully by a superbly pouty and catty Schmidt, and Tina, performed with a wonderful blend of sweetness and naivite by newcomer Jason Hardwick.
Tammy has a new and mostly unwanted baby in tow whose daddy is Clint, one of the forwards on the Panthers. Motherhood has earned her a promise ring from Clint, although it’s probably not the first such bauble Clint has bestowed on a girl.
Clint has ambitions to join the NHL (what small town player doesn’t?) but just might be satisfied with a trade to, say, Red Deer.
Tonya is dating Ron, the goaltender, who apparently has a very low sex drive. It seems he prefers shirtless stretching exercises with his roommate and then watching Ru Paul’s Drag Races on television to hooking up with Tonya. Could it be that Ron is…gay?
Tina is without a boyfriend for the moment. Her former beau has disappeared, perhaps traded to another team or, worse, has been “re-incarcarated”, according to Tammy. “Do you mean like Shirley MacLaine?” Tina asks.
There are rules to be followed if you’re going to be a proper Puck Bunny and avoid being reduced to a d lowest-of-the-low, a “ swamp dog”, who lurks around the bus stop waiting for the Panthers to return from a road trip.
Tammy, Tonya and Tina know these rules and follow them religiously, not that it’s likely to do them much good in the end. They just might be on the cusp of being relegated to the swamp.
While this is a romp of a production, fueled by one-liners delivered with the speed and accuracy of a pass from McDavid to Draisaitl, there is much more at work here.
There is a profound understanding of what hockey means in a small town and a much deeper understanding of what it is to be vulnerable.
I loved this show. You will too.
– Marc Horton is a former sports columnist and entertainment writer with the Edmonton Journal. He learned his hockey skills in the 1960s at the Gerry Murphy Arena in Yellowknife, where hockey is king. Over the course of eight seasons, he scored five goals and had one fight in which he was soundly thrashed.