SILO theatre show Rabbit recreates the best kind of single girl's night out with copious amounts of alcohol, smutty gossip with girlfriends, flirting with old flames and some drunken self-reflection. But best of all, as a sober audience member, you get to enjoy the fun hangover free.
Rabbit is a slice-of-life story about a birthday party from hell. PR chick Bella is turning 29 and struggling with the thought of getting older. She's hired the back room of a fashionable club and got all her closest friends together to celebrate.
None of them really know one another, two of them are her old boyfriends and everyone is getting very drunk. To top it all off, Bella's angst at ageing is compounded by the fact her beloved father is dying of cancer.
It is easy to see why playwright Nina Raine has been celebrated for her skilful dialogue and her ability to capture the work hard, play hard lives of young professionals.
The play reminded me of the best episodes of TV shows This Life and Sex and the City, except it seemed more relevant to my life. It was so true to form it was like Raine had been eavesdropping on my past, making me laugh out loud, cringe with self-recognition and even shed a tear in one scene.
This production is in safe hands, with a cast of Auckland's best and brightest. While it's an ensemble piece, there is a lot of focus on Claire Chitham, who plays the central character Bella. Funny, sexy and fierce, she carries the play effortlessly and is particularly good in a final devastating scene which farewells her father, who is superbly played with warmth by Peter Elliott.
As a debut play, Rabbit does have a slightly clunky structure, with scenes of the party being interrupted by past memories of Bella and her father. At first it felt like it was almost two separate plays that didn't quite fit together but by the end I was convinced that it did work.
Director Oliver Driver keeps the emotion on the right side of sentimental, and strong acting from Chitham and Elliott means that you identify with Bella and her growing realisation that she can't enjoy the future until she reconciles her past.
Despite this more serious side, Rabbit is mainly a light-hearted look at twenty-somethings who don't really want to grow up and there are some delicious moments of black humour as Bella and her friends take pot shots at one another's personalities.
Madeleine Sami manages to be both sexy and down-to-earth as Bella's best friend Emily. She's so calm and confident that you almost believe she really is a surgeon in training. Dean O'Gorman is nicely understated as Bella's fish-out-of-water old flame Tom. He's a guy from finance surrounded by extroverts and you just know they are going to eat him alive.
The funniest and most transformative actors in the cast are Jodie Rimmer and Edwin Wright, who play aspiring writers Sandy and Richard. Jealous of each other's place in Bella's affections, they fight over the birthday girl as if she's the last slice of cake on the plate.
Rabbit looks like Auckland's social pages come to life. The bright young things shimmer in Zambesi clothes, while they yabber on the latest Nokia phones, perch and preen on sleek Forma furniture and chow down on designer Asian morsels.
Designer John Verryt has created a luxe nightclub environment that manages to be both dark and glossy with a particularly sexy backlit perspex wall.
But his real trick is to transform the Herald Theatre into a more accessible space by raising the stage so the seating block doesn't seem so vertiginous.
Rabbit comes to Auckland fresh from Britain, where it opened to rave reviews and instantly transferred to the West End.
It's also been produced in Sydney and New York and is yet another example of Silo creative director Shane Bosher's "evil genius" for selecting sharp, sexy plays that speak to the smart young things who don't normally like theatre.