I push the potatoes around in my cup of Timber Rabbit Stew and find no timber rabbit meat.

Oh, I get it. I’m supposed to ask where the meat is and will be told, “You’re as naïve as Ben Mueller!”

Ben Mueller is the character in Timber Rabbits – A Northern Mystery of Men, Madness, Murder, and Mutilation who runs into a wall of back-woods attitudes that shut out those not deemed tough enough and savvy enough to survive depression-era Alaska.

Of course Mueller, played by George Maratos, doesn’t help himself out much and therein lies much of the comedy and drama of this locally produced play.

But, hey, I am eating Timber Rabbit Stew during the intermission and there are Jim Robb prints available for sale and I could be drinking Timber Rabbit Limited Edition Brew, provided by Yukon Brewing.

I check out the set once more and I see a cabin that is impressive in its authenticity and detail.

There is a lot of loving commitment to this production, and you have to smile at the enthusiasm of all associated with it.

But, in all the things that matter most in theatre, the play is lacking.

The set, as impressive as it is, is too small for the performers to feel comfortable in. As a result, the acting becomes stilted.

It is difficult for actors to “jump off a cliff” for each other in each performance when they do not feel free to animate.

And this is what Timber Rabbits needs: animation. This is a playful romp that needs bigger-than-life characters played by actors willing to take them over the top.

All the more important here because the script has not undergone enough rewriting to bridge the jumps in logic and erase the lines that would never be uttered by certain men in certain situations.

And a careful look at this script could have found ways to limit the number of set changes and to make them quicker. Audiences don’t mind waiting, but it gets tedious sitting in the dark so often when you see actors standing there, not knowing what to do next.

It is unfortunate that the old Legion Hall has a raised stage because it contributed to the feeling of a school play. The actors, at times, looked like they were making it up as they went along.

Although they look like seven men on stage having the time of their lives, this company has not formed into a cohesive unit.

This overshadows Maratos’ performance that blended high comedy and low comedy in a tantalizing way.

Meanwhile, Al Loewen’s Pete had that rough charisma that lifted any scene he was in.

Doug Rutherford’s character, Will, has been fleshed out nicely for a satisfying character study.

Braeden Trefry’s Young Knut character is played sweet and self-aware while Mike Tribes’ Pilot Michael is all about the slapstick and Patrick Singh’s character, Simon, is played ironically with dry humour.

Al MacLeod, the Marshal and Old Knut, is tightly wound intensity.

Seven actors … seven approaches to their characters.

Each character in this play, however, is iconic. With a tighter script, more rehearsal and a more workable set, Timber Rabbits could be a successful Yukon export.

However, even as it is today, it remains a good value for the price of a ticket. It is a grand tale and there are laughs … and then there are laughs that only Northerners would enjoy.

Timber Rabbits shows at the old Legion Hall at 8 p.m. until Dec. 6.

Tickets are available at Arts Underground, Triple J’s Music and the Yukon College Bookstore.

Photo to be added

PHOTO: RICK MASSIE massierick@hotmail.com