An Intimate Look Down the RABBIT HOLE

by Lesley Grigg

A Langhorne Players production can be summed up in two words:  Intimate and Daring.  With only five rows of seats spanning across the length of the stage, every audience member is plunked into the character’s world.  Depending on the scene, you can get the feeling you’re eavesdropping on a very private conversation right in someone’s living room, or you can have ring-side seats to an in-your-face confrontation where there’s a good chance you may be spit on.  The Langhorne Players are not afraid to curse, smoke, throw punches, pull hair, get naked, or be controversial (this particular play only contained R-rated language and described a few smack downs).  From this perspective, it’s easier to appreciate the stories being told on this stage.  Although they may not always be entertaining, they’re the closest to real that I’ve seen.

(left to right) Howie (Aaron Wexler) and Izzy (Julia Wise) look on as Nat (Linda Palmarozza) argues with her daughter, Becca (Kyla Mostello Donnelly), about attending a bereavement group as means of coping with the death of Becca's son in Langhorne Players' production of RABBIT HOLE.

As audience members filtered into the theater, their oohs and ahhs told me one of two things: they’re new to Langhorne Players and/or they really liked the set.  Someone had described the theater as “adorable,” and I can only assume they were surprised about the intimate size.  The set was very well done.  I’m always amazed at how some of these sets are constructed to look like pieces of someone’s home.  From the crown molding in the living room, handsome furniture pieces, cozy kitchen, and colorful kids room, it seemed every detail associated with a perfect nuclear family was covered.  From the conversations around me, other audience members agreed.

Once the story started to unfold, we discovered this family wasn’t as perfect as their home suggested.  As older sister, Becca (Kyla Mostello Donnelly), folded toddler sized clothes, younger sister Izzy (Julia Wise) recounted a rousing night at the bar.  Waves of tension floated in and out of the conversation around a certain subject, not giving too much away at once, but we knew it had something to do with the now neatly folded clothing.

The relationship between Becca and Izzy seemed normal enough for sisters, where the older, more responsible Becca was looking out for the younger more rebellious Izzy.  Donnelly brought out very natural mothering features in Becca, while Wise offered some lightheartedness in what was, at times, a tense scene; however, there were also times I felt Wise’s wittiness was a little forced.

The relationship between Becca and Howie (Aaron Wexler) was also believable.  The two were natural together in their husband and wife role, casually making small talk about their day, absent friends, and the difficulties coping with a loss.  Traces of pent-up tension started to surface in their first scene together, and only grew as the play progressed.  Sometimes the release of tension made it difficult for the proper delivery of lines, which was completely understandable.  I much rather see someone get caught up in a moment than say it perfectly without feeling.  However, there were some moments of released frustration, especially from Howie, that felt nasty instead of angry.

Any scene with Nat (Linda Palmarozza) was a much needed comic relief from the painful truth of moving on with life after a sudden death.  Of course, Nat has her own issues with death to deal with, but it’s her take on politics, conspiracies, and happy memories that outshine her grief.  Nat was the source of many shots of laughter needed  to wake up the audience, literally.

Another form of tension was felt whenever anyone mentioned the name Jason (Tim Schumann). When we finally meet this soft spoken teenage boy, it’s hard to understand why.  It was also hard to understand some of Jason’s dialogue at times.  Some of his scenes could have been a lot more powerful if he would have slowed it down a bit; of course that’s easier said than done with kids these days.

Most of the play consists of couch conversation, which as I mentioned before is great for realism, but not so much for entertainment.  As I can appreciate good story-telling, I noticed others around me could not.  As we all know, you can’t please everyone all of the time, it’s just the price to pay when choosing to tell stories you believe in that could possibly touch an audience on a higher lever, rather than trying to make everyone happy all the time.

By David Lindsay-Abaire
Directed by Robert A. Norman
August 19 – September 3, 2011
Langhorne Players
at Tyler State Park
Newtown-Richboro Rd. (Rt. 332)
Newtown, PA

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