By David Lindsay-Abaire
Director ? Jeremy Ferman
Asst. Directors ? Linda Fulhart and Natalie Shaw
Stage Manager ? Rae Harvill
Set and Sound Design ? Jeremy Ferman
Lighting Design ? Emilie Buske-Ferman
Costume Design ? Misty Baptiste
Becca ? Angela Gair
Izzy ? Marisa Gait
Howie ? Shane Beeson
Nat ? Sylvia Luedtke
Jason ? Cody Vann
Reviewed Performance 8/14/2011
Reviewed by Laurie Lynn Lindemeier, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
In the opening scene of the play RABBIT HOLE at Runway Theatre in Grapevine a bit of light streamed in from the upper right ceiling illuminating a carefully decorated Home. The audience clearly saw the actress find her place in the dark which didn't begin the play's mystique well. However, as the tense dialogue ensued between the two sisters, Becca (Angela Gair) and Izzy (Marisa Gait), we quickly settled in to the aura of a 2006 home seething with suppressed anguish.
The thirty-something Becca meticulously folded what appeared to be just laundry but we soon realized that all the clothes were for her dead little boy. She folded small T-shirts with cartoon characters on them with no emotion. Detachment of great hurt or an actress not yet deeply in character?at that point, I couldn't tell, but I waited. As the play moved forward, Becca rarely showed big emotions. She was empty, but then?a mother in grief is.
The playwright, David Lindsay-Abaire wrote an intense story which demands much of actors. To be successful a large amount of the drama must be depicted with facial expressions, timing, and use of silence. In general I believe the players did this. Occasionally they became caught up in the "louder is better" syndrome. At some moments I longed for more use of soft speech, intense eye contact, and quiet pauses. Runway Theatre's lovely intimate venue would allow for this. A loud whisper could probably be heard even by patrons hiding in the back row.
The characters dealt with the death of the four year old boy with anger, denial, obsessive actions, and inappropriate humor. The play hit hard for two hours, and was jam packed with sadness but was extremely adept at presenting humanness.
Each actor of this small cast depicted their side of sorrow in unique ways. The grandmother meddled, the teenager wrote a story, the father attended a support group, the mother cooked gourmet food, and the aunt fought in bars and got pregnant.
At Runway Theatre they cast the directors for each play as well as the actors.
Director Jeremy Ferman pulled together a talented cast and guided them to a
powerful interpretation of this poignant play which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007. The story allowed us to witness how each member of a family processed death in vastly different ways.
Izzy chatted with Becca as she folded clothes with a loud abrasive voice which fit her barroom story well. She proudly described how she punched a woman who insulted her but was timid to her mourning sister about presenting her pregnancy. Prissy Becca reacted strongly to the bar story but eased up when the pregnancy was announced and miraculously?they were cuddling gentle buddies by the end of the scene.
This type of scene with quick-switch emotions happened often. The actors handled the flip flop feeling scenes well. Sylvia Luedtke skillfully played the irritating mother Nat who doled out unsolicited advice after a glass or two or three of wine. We eventually witnessed her character have authentic sympathy and connect with her daughter Becca as they packed the boy's bedroom into boxes.
Perhaps I'm too much of an Empath but I swear I could feel the audience's strong hope for healing hanging in the air. I certainly heard sniffles all around me.
When a character finally let out grief instead of covering it up, it was a
moment of great tension release for the audience. Like a sneeze that had been tickling your nose forever and at last you got to "ah-choo" it out.
The expulsion was such a relief! The playwright did not provide many of those relief moments, so I'd bring a package of tissues with you. Most of the grief was unresolved. I'd rather it'd be that way than a tidy ending wrapped up unrealistically, like a nun wearing a bikini.
Shane Beeson played the volatile husband Howie who watched childhood videos of his boy late at night after his wife went to bed. His explosive scene with Becca when she accidentally recorded over his favorite tape was powerful. He ironically accused Becca of trying to erase their son's memory yet energetically joined in on the activity of selling their home. The dichotomies of grief were apparent over and over.
The costuming for a show set in our time period felt comfortable and unobtrusive as it should be, and the set appeared meticulously composed and arranged. Jeremy Ferman designed the set and Misty Baptiste created costumes.
The timid teenager Jason, played by high school student Cody Vann was a role that could be overlooked, but the young actor did an admirable job portraying a character that battled the guilt of accidentally hitting and killing a child. In his scene with Becca, Jason nervously shifted around on the couch as they conversed. Although their conversation was forced, we saw healing happening.
Extremely brief comedic moments appeared, providing breaks from the melancholy. While this performance is not categorized as a "feel good" show it certainly showed that feelings, be it grief, guilt, or anger, were all good and necessary. This play made me keep trying to swallow that lump in my throat. I'd see it again in a heartbeat. Catch it at Runway Theatre before it closes on August 21st.
Runway Theatre, 215 North Dooley St., Grapevine 76051
Limited Run: Remaining show dates are Friday, August 19th, Saturday, August 2h at 8:00pm & Sunda, August 21 at 3:00pm.
Ticket prices: $12-15. For more info go to www.runwaytheatre.com or call (817)488-4842.