BWW Reviews: RABBIT HOLE by Red Turnip Theater
By Emmanuel Evan Alba
Husband and wife Howie (Michael Williams) and Becca (Agot Isidro) have everything they could want, until a life-shattering accident turns their world upside down, and leaves the couple drifting perilously apart. Becca, who must also cope with the distractions of her reckless sister Izzy (Che Ramos-Cosio) and their opinionated mother Nat (Sheila Francisco), takes solace in her unlikely friendship with a neighborhood teenager Jason (Ross Pesigan), who might provide the key to lead her back from the darkest of places.
Manila, Philippines--RABBIT HOLE, a David Lindsay-Abaire opus, presents a story about a wife, Becca, and her family, struggling to get past the loss of Danny, Becca's son, who was killed when he was hit by a car. Red Turnip Theater does not "squeeze blood" from this play, but it definitely paints the turnip red. Red Turnip Theater brings an intimate take on this acclaimed play. Despite some not-so-good things written below, RABBIT HOLE, surely, is an experience!
Agot and Becca: the stars of the show. They make everything revolve around them, whether it is dramatic or otherwise, although they can be a bit bipolar for me. Agot is the right choice for the role. She is a natural and, surprisingly, has comedic timing--I have not pictured her like that on some of her TV shows. I have a newfound respect towards her now.
Michael and Howie. I love Howie, and I love Michael! Although the character is definitely not as strong as Becca because she is more active in this story than he is, Howie probably is the most realistic character in RABBIT HOLE given the circumstances. Michael does not get as many ticks in my notes for outstanding moments as Agot, but he definitely plays the part for boiling it down to its truest and most "Filipino" sense. Watching Michael play Howie is like seeing a neighbor longing for his dead son. He is not overdramatic; he is just real.
Che and Izzy. I am putting Che before Sheila because Izzy should always go first before Nat. I think Izzy is more important than Nat because she is a breath of fresh air in this play. Her story is not focused on Danny; she has her own problems, thus, making her less melodramatic than the couple. She is the counterpoint to Becca. Che, however, is not as strong as the character simply because she does not suit the serious-angry parts at times, and has a little bit of a weird accent given that she plays the sister of Becca. These things distract me but that does not mean she did not get "outstanding ticks" on my notes. And because she is the opposite of Becca, she is the only thing that is left interesting to be seen in Act Two.
Sheila and Nat. Nat is hilarious! Sheila is, too. I do not like Nat that much, but I like Sheila. Sheila is the epitome of classic acting--natural, exciting, funny, and shocking. She keeps on making me have faith in the character. She definitely has many "outstanding ticks" for doing her job well--the job of making a so-so character likeable. She makes the melodramatic parts be felt at the right spots. She is the exclamation of the RABBIT HOLE sentence. Oh, her V.O.s are good, too.
Ross and Jason. Two words: Needs improvement.
The problem with the story, as what its director, Topper Fabregas, said during the conference after the preview, is the balance between the funny and the melodramatic parts. The play is interesting because of its wittiness, but ironically, does not really work that much when it comes to the dramatic parts, which obviously should have been its stronger suit because the story itself is supposed to be like that.
Despite the strong performances, Act Two is definitely weak compared to Act One for its lack of funny moments. It is like all the serious things have been placed in Act Two instead of being distributed equally throughout the play.
On the technical side, I like the set design for its classy, American yet antique look, plus the cake and appliances function like they are in a real house. Taking #selfies [with the set as background] is actually the best part of the RABBIT HOLE experience. Danny's room, although a muse to the watcher's eyes, however, becomes a place of inconvenience for its lack of space. It is like when the actors are there, they should be holding on for their lives by not moving that big or they could fall.
But more than anything (and that includes the mics having feedback), the biggest setback for me is the lighting design. I do not know what is happening, but surely, those lights need to get fixed, be timed correctly, and be placed on their proper places. Sometimes, they go out abruptly during transitions; certain parts of the stage are not lighted well enough that the actors who are speaking do not have any light at all. It is either that or the actors do not follow the stage directions. One thing I like about the lighting, however, is the use of blue lights at times instead of totally turning off the lights.
David Lindsay-Abaire's story arc in the RABBIT HOLE may not be truly universal, but his purpose of telling a story about fear of death is.
Oh, [director] Topper Fabregas should act again. I liked his performance in Red Turnip Theater's COCK.
RABBIT HOLE will run until Sunday, August 31, at Whitespace (2314 Don Chino Roces Ave., Makati City)
For tickets, visit ticketworld.com.ph.