Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Rabbit Hole"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2009 by Tony Annicone

"Rabbit Hole"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The first show of The Players 101st Season is the Rhode Island area premiere of "Rabbit Hole", a play by David Lindsay-Abaire which won him the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for drama in 2007. The play is a comic drama that focuses on a couple, Becca and Howie, trying to cope with the death of their only child, a four-year-old, in an auto accident, while Becca's well-meaning mom and off-kilter sister attempt to lift their spirits and deal with their own problems, each in her own inimitable way. The couple's lives are further complicated when Jason, the young driver who killed their son contacts them seeking closure as well. A conversation between Becca and Jason includes a brief discussion of the theory of quantum immortality as described in a story he has written about a place where "rabbit holes" lead to parallel universes. However, the theme of the play is the way people handle grief, the death of the child, the suicide of a family member and not the theory or search for quantum immortality. Director Ed Rondeau casts the best 5 people for each of these roles. The internal despair of each character is always visible to the audience but Ed brings the pathos and humor out in each scene of this electrifying show.

Ed not only directs this powerful show but created the beautiful set for it. It is a unit set with a sunken living room, the kitchen area and the upstairs complete with a stairway contains a child's bedroom with a toy box. He brings out deep seated emotions from his talented cast. It shows how to find hope even in the darkest of moments and how to find a path to the light of day again. His hard working stage manager Shelley Tragar keeps things moving beautifully backstage and onstage all night long. There is a lot of truth, accuracy and humor in the details of this story. The lighting is by Ruth Fagan with sound by Jo Biz. All the costumes are by Sue Bergeron including an excellent leopard blouse for Nat and the multitude of props including many toys and food items (creme caramel, lemon squares, a birthday cake and a torte, are handled by Joni Blomstedt, Eva-Maria Coffey and Shirley Harrison. Sharon Charpentier plays Becca who tries to stay busy to keep her mind off the family tragedy. The show opens with her folding the clothes of her four year old son, Danny and you gradually learn what has happened during her conversation with her younger sister, Izzy. Her controlled anger and grief simmer beneath the surface at times. Sharon handles this amazing role beautifully. Becca explodes at a mother who ignores her 5 year old in the market because the child wants a fruit roll up and slaps her face. She finally breaks down crying in a scene with Jason when they are discussing his prom finally finding closure.She can also handle comic roles, having recently reviewed her as Veta Louise Simmons in "Harvey" at 2nd Story Theatre this past summer. Mark Gentsch plays her husband, Howie terrifically. He tries to get Becca to come around by trying to rekindle their physical relationship and when she doesn't want to, he deals with his grief by watching a videotape of Danny. Howie becomes outraged at one of Becca's actions when she accidentally erases the videotape with footage of a tornado from the weather channel. Mark's best moment comes when he breaks down in tears during their argument scene at the end of Act 1 when Howie feels Becca is trying to erase Danny's memory from their lives which brings tears to your eyes and a lump to your throat. I have reviewed Mark before in "Twelfth Night" and "It's Only a Play" but this role surpasses them all.

Krista Weller Burns, a pretty brunette, is hilarious as Izzy who constantly eats throughout the show and in the birthday scene is puzzled at the bathroom set Becca and Howie bought her. Izzy tries to cheer Becca up while wanting to be the center of attention by discussing a fight she had in a bar with a fat woman and how she is moving in with her boyfriend. Her own personal crises doesn't cheer Becca up at all. Krista has dramatic moments in the show with her best scene being an excellent argument with Mark about how her waitress friend saw him after a support group meeting with another woman. She and Trish look like mother and daughter in real life. Trish McManus has a gem of a role as Nat, the mother who is a lot like Izzy. She likes to drink and sometimes says inappropriate things. Trish has a comic highlight about the "Kennedy curse", how people want things to make sense but also about rich people acting stupid. This scene erupts into a dramatic one where Nat shares her past grief with them. She explains to Becca its key symptom is an isolating, heavy feeling that may change in time but never really goes away. Krista and Trish handle most of the much needed humor as part of their characters with dramatic moments along the way. They both do topnotch work in this show. I have reviewed Krista in "Fiddler on the Roof" and Trish in many shows with the last one being "Pygmalion" last winter. Chris Ferraria plays Jason, the teenaged driver of the car. He shows his remorse by writing a letter to Becca and later speaking to her about writing a story about how the little boy will live on in a parallel universe in his science fiction story. Jason explains how he didn't see the boy when the dog darted out in front of his car and how he might have been going 32 or 33 miles an hour not 30. Chris handles Jason's awkwardness at facing them wonderfully. The character helps Becca move out of being isolated from the world by his visit. I also reviewed Chris in "The Laramie Project" where he played the awful killer Aaron McKinney.So for a terrific look at a contemporary play that audiences can readily relate to, be sure to catch the gut wrenching play "Rabbit Hole" before it is too late. Tell them Tony sent you. Be sure to call Lydia to become a member of this century old theatre club.

"Rabbit Hole" (9 - 18 October)
THE PLAYERS
Barker Playhouse, 400 Benefit Street, PROVIDENCE RI
1 (401)273-0590

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