If I inform you up front that this heart-wrenching drama, RABBIT HOLE, by David Lindsay-Abaire, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2007, would that get your attention? It was nominated for several Tony awards in 2006 and won for Best Actress (Cynthia Nixon). How ‘bout that? Mr. Lindsay-Abaire’s adaptation of the play to a film of the same name can be seen in theatres now. We don’t always get to enjoy the play and the film at the same time.
RABBIT HOLE, directed by Aaron Gould, is being performed in Phoenixville at the Forge Theatre which is celebrating its 49th season. This drama is for you if you often find yourself sympathetic and empathetic in trying to understand people and their feelings, relationships and their dynamics. But also keep in mind that this is not an upbeat play and there is strong language throughout. Not for kids.
We are in Westchester County, NY in the home of Becca (Heather Reese) and Howie (Eric Jarrell) Corbett, thirty-something parents who are grieving over the death of their 4 year-old son, Danny, who was accidentally hit by a car driven by 17 year-old Jason Willette (Kevin Fennell). Danny was following his dog, Taz, into the street.
In the opening scene, we find Becca and her sister, Izzy (Deedee Mann) chatting…Izzy is bubbly while Becca is obviously tense. Izzy informs her sister that she is pregnant (not married) while Becca is still dealing with the death of her son. Enter their mother, Nat (Deb Braak), who tends to be talkative, meddlesome, annoying but obviously caring. Her own son, Arthur, had committed suicide at age 30. And now Howie, who tries to remain somewhat “up”, is hanging on to the status quo as best he can. Tensions rise at every possible moment, every which way, sometimes as if coming out of nowhere. Becca is up; Howie is down or vice versa. Izzy, I think, sometimes doesn’t know if she’s up or down. She’s trying to roll with the punches, so to speak. BTW, Izzy’s acting is right on…excellent facial expressions; very natural body movements… in fact, it’s as if she’s acting just “normal”. (Did I hit it right, Deedee? I’d like to see you in another role sometime.) This family is so “broken” that we wonder how they will ever be put back together again. It’s what we hope for.
Don’t think, Kevin Fennell (Jason), that I have forgotten you. I was very impressed with your acting. You seemed very comfortable in your role. And it was a very pivotal one, as far as I was concerned. As a teenager, you unintentionally tore this family apart. And with the wisdom perhaps you didn’t realize you had, you were instrumental in pulling them together. (Thank you, Mr. Lindsay-Abaire) You listened and watched skillfully. You acted appropriately uncomfortable and nervous in meeting Mrs. Corbett. Even your voice! It was so soft (and scared, I’m assuming, in that situation) that we had to listen with care to hear you. Well done, Kevin.
Suggestion to the set designer: I might have constructed Danny’s room at a higher level where it might be easier for all to see. A platform type of set up with a stairway going up. Did we need to see so much black on the back wall? I get the idea but is that realistic? Furthermore, when the actors depart through the curtain on the side, by simply moving the curtain behind them instead of in front, then, we, the audience, can avoid seeing behind the curtain. Try sitting in the audience and check it out.
Overall, the acting will not disappoint you, readers. Be prepared to discuss the play after. Talk about the symbolism of the “rabbit hole”. Many interesting places in Phoenixville to meet.
I’d venture to say that many audience members are touched in some way, positively or negatively, by what’s happening on stage. We all deal with grief differently; we find comfort in different ways; we hope that we can come through on the other side as intact as we can possibly be.
This is not an easy drama to sit through. Here’s hoping you can handle it.
Until the next show…
by David Lindsay-Abaire
Directed by Aaron Gould
February 25 – March 12, 2011
241 First Avenue
Phoenixville, PA 19460