BWW Review: The Lessons of Love and Loss is Nuance Theatre Co's RABBIT HOLE
We all have our moments of existential thought, leading us to think about what this existence really means: some consider it heaven, some hell, and some a test in anticipation of what is to come. Alternate universes, per se, inside each of our minds - times of happiness and love followed by moments of confusion and grief, as though the scale must keep perpetual balance. No matter the opinion, or what alternate circumstances can exist in another place and time, this is the sole reality we have - the one we must come to terms with when something horrific occurs.
Rabbit Hole, written by David Lindsay-Abaire, tells the story of a mother and father stricken with unending grief after the accidental death of their four year old son; theirs is a reality that isn't fair or deserved, but must simply be dealt with. With this play,Lindsay-Abaire carefully deconstructs the overall larger picture of "grief" into smaller moments, bringing to light how each of those involved finds solace in their own way. And as emotional a ride Rabbit Hole brings the audience on, we somehow begin to understand how people cope with something that can never be explained - only accepted until the pain isn't as great as it used to be.
Produced by Nuance Theatre Co., in association with LungTree Productions and the John DeSotelle Studio, Rabbit Hole is currently in performances at the NuBox in Hell's Kitchen. John DeSotelle directs this Pulitzer Prize-winning play, leading this Equity showcase and bringing an extremely talented and invested cast/crew to tell this heartbreaking story. Not only that, but to allow the audience to feel right alongside these grieving characters. What is referred to be DeSotelle as "close up theatre," simple observation becomes participation when the audience sits very near the action; so engrossed are we in what's on stage, it becomes very difficult to turn away.
An absolutely beautiful production, Nuance Theatre Co.'s Rabbit Hole begins eight months after a tragic accident, in the aftermath of Howie and Becca losing their four year old son Danny after he chased his dog into the street. They are distraught but have learned to function, feeling as a single unit the pain this tragedy has wrought upon their family. As husband and wife try to move on, conflict arises when each does so in a way that plays tug-of-war with their son's memory: while Becca copes by removing her son's paintings from the fridge and giving her mother the family dog, Howie breaks down in a fit of anguish and begs her to stop making their son disappear. Their relationship with not only each other, but with Becca's mother and sister Izzy, is tested when life simply becomes hard - no amount of comforting can alleviate the black whole inside that makes even the simplest thing as loving that much harder.
Rabbit Hole tests the boundaries of human suffering, and how far one person is able to go until the resistance to pain is too great. Such a great understanding of this is when Howie falls to his knees in Act Two, sobbing over the memory of his son; Becca falls to meet him. This scene portrays not simply an act of comfort, but to show that they have at last descended to the same level of unbearable hurt; at that moment is when true healing begins, and it is one that sticks in my mind as something so carnal, so raw. Watching Howie and Becca in that scene made everyone question how much hurt is in the depths of their souls that can lead to such an uninhibited outburst - how can people suffer so much? This production truly made everyone in the audience that (and every) night feel right alongside these characters, making this such a heartfelt and miraculous theatrical experience.
Such a beautiful, well-crafted production deserves my praise and much, much more. Each scene is a careful breakdown of these characters' minds taken tangible shape. From Becca's and Howie's fight over whether taping over Danny's most recent home video was intentional, to how upset Becca becomes when her mother inadvertently compares her little boy to her deceased addict of a brother, there is such depth to these characters and each stage of what they must go through. The very end is a true culmination of everything, when the audience learns that this accident - something so life-shattering - was no one's fault - no one can be blamed and, even more so, despised. It is one thing to accept what another person chooses to do to others, and quite another when there is truly no culprit; that makes these characters heroic in their continuous attempts to find a way back to each other.
Such a wonderful cast and crew make this production of Rabbit Hole something truly special. Maggie Alexander, Michael Filisky, Kit Colbourn, Rachael Worthington and Brandon Raines bring this story to emotional heights on stage, while Assistant Directors Emily DeSotelle and Judith Feingold, Stage Manager Kyle Conn/Assistant Stage Manager Hannah Freeman, Scenic/Lighting Designer Matthew Imhoff, Costume Designer Sonya Plenefisch and Sound Designer John Rearick do their jobs well to visually make this all happen.
Rabbit Hole, presented by Nuance Theatre Co. and LungTree Productions, began performances at the NuBox at John DeSotelle Studio (located at 754 9th Avenue, 4th floor) on June 1st and will run thru June 23rd. Tickets are $25/$20 and can be purchased by visiting here. For further information, you can also call (212) 581-0188. The performance schedule is as follows: Tuesday, 6/18 @ 7:30 pm, Thursday 6/20 @ 7:30 pm, Friday/Saturday (6/21 and 6/22) @ 8 pm and Sunday 6/23 @ 3:00 pm. 10% of all ticket sales will be donated to The Compassionate Friends, who assists families that have suffered the loss of a child.
Please go out and support smaller theater companies who have a lot to offer their audiences - this production is the prime example of how true this is.
Enjoy the show!