In an effort to offer more challenging works for the stage, Players Club of Swarthmore uses its Second Stage series to take chances with less “mainstream” titles…and they begin the 2010-2011 season with David Lindsay-Abaire’s quietly thought-provoking play RABBIT HOLE.
Winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Lindsay-Abaire’s play utilizes equal parts humor and drama in examining the impact a personal tragedy has on the lives, emotions and relationships of a seemingly well-adjusted, happy, suburban New York couple. The playwright creates a somewhat unadorned family drama that avoids being a soap opera by minimizing the histrionics and effectively employing natural, human language.
The Players Club production, directed by Dennis Bloh and Bridget Dougherty (no relation), is intimate and measured in its approach, carefully revealing each step in the story’s journey – though at times the pacing can be a bit too deliberate. The directors capture the mood of the piece and get strong performances from the cast, who create a nice sense of the family connections and dynamics represented in this piece. But it is important to maintain a sense of momentum in progressing through the story. At the same time, they were not “afraid” of silence in the storytelling.
In the central role of Becca, Julie Marra is a warm, gentle and steady presence. For me, she started slowly in portraying the many layers of this woman’s persona, but grew into her performance as the evening went along. Becca’s detachment sometimes played as disinterest, but the actress settled in and the characterization evolved nicely. As Howie, JP Timlin is quite wonderful in a nuanced and natural performance, capably showing us a tormented man trying hard to be strong, even if maybe he is not.
Dana Corvino provides solid support as Becca’s sister Izzy. She mines the comedy to great effect with a quirky characterization, but matches it with a dramatic strength when necessary. Ellen Dilks is almost unassumingly funny – and tender when needed – as Becca and Izzy’s often inappropriate mother, Nat. Liam McDonna is effective as Jason, the young man caught up in the family’s tragic story and, while occasionally stilted, nicely portrays the nervous teenager’s combined sense of confusion, innocence and honesty.
Overall, the production’s varied elements coalesce, however, and this RABBIT HOLE is a moving examination of how people deal with tragedy and how they can find competing tinges of both ambivalence and hope in that experience.
by David Lindsey-Abaire
Directed by Bridget Dougherty & Dennis Bloh
October 1 – 16, 2010
Players Club of Swarthmore (Second Stage)
614 Fairview Road
Swarthmore, PA 19081