Little Theatre of Alexandria Rabbit HoleBy Joe Adcock • Sep 11th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Little Theatre of Alexandria
Little Theatre of Alexandria, Alexandria, VA
Through October 1st
2:00 with one intermission
Reviewed September 10th, 2011
What’s so funny about a family grieving over a toddler who died after being hit by a car? And, then, what’s so funny about a girl with progeria (accelerated aging), doomed to die young? Or a woman with amnesia trying to recover her ability to remember, to think and to speak after violent abuse?
The man to go to for answers to these questions is playwright David Lindsay-Abaire. His recovery from trauma drama is Fuddy Meers. As for, progeria, he deals with that in Kimberly Akimbo. And Rabbit Hole is his play about the grieving family.
None of these — and none of Lindsay-Abaire’s half-dozen other plays — is what anyone would call a laugh riot, a rollicking romp. No, they are more what is sometimes referred to as comedy/dramas, or, as some language abusers say, “dramedies.” The genre actually goes way back — think Shakespeare’s Cymbeline or Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya.
Which brings us to the Little Theatre of Alexandria. The company’s current production is a nicely calibrated, skillfully acted, effectively staged Rabbit Hole. The play is in no way simple or easy. But director Joanna Henry manages to balance the many dark elements — sorrow, anger, blame, guilt, depression, despair — with startling whiffs of comic oxygen. Her designers provide a versatile single setting, offering opportunities for multi-character coffee klatches, one-on-one living room confrontations and a bedroom for isolation or contemplation. And the actors — for the most part, anyway — manage to shade what could be simple, one-quality sketch characters into strikingly colorful dramatic portraits.
Most striking is Andy Izquierdo as Howie, the bereaved father and frustrated husband. He deftly modulates through a spectrum of moods that includes puzzlement and certitude, rage and tenderness, remoteness and horniness, patience and exasperation. As Becca, the mother, Karen Jadlos Shotts conveys a character who is emotionally stuck and stymied. And as an actress, Shotts is often stuck and stymied — stuck with portraying grief and stymied by her choice of treating Becca as a person who clings to all things negative: sarcasm, anger, reproach, rejection, defensiveness, fault-finding and even a bit of physical violence against a stranger. Yes, these qualities are all suggested by Lindsay-Abaire’s writing. But, no, they are not all that the playwright includes in his depiction of Becca. Shotts’ emotional editing of her role makes for a very unsympathetic primary character. By the time this cranky Becca warms up to a stranger, it is hard to trust her. Is she actually making contact with another human being? Or is this just a self-indulgent acting out of some fantasy about how it might be if only her little boy had grown up into a big boy?
Collin Chute does a good job with the awkward but appealing big boy. He, too, struggles with grief and guilt. But he’s young. He has an active imagination which gloms onto “alternative universes.” He can even be ebullient.
Adding sidelights and highlights are Rebecca Phillips as Izzy, Becca’s neo-hippy sister and Rebecca Lenehan as Nat, Becca and Izzy’s bibulous mother. Both Lenehan and Phillips are interesting as characters and as dramatic devices. By creating two uninhibited women who are glad to speak bluntly to both Howie and Becca, Lindsay-Abaire manages to raise all sorts of awkward issues that keep his comedy/drama lively — both dramatic and funny. Understandably, Rabbit Hole won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for drama and evolved into a movie starring Nicole Kidman. If Ibsen had been capable of out-and-out humor, one of his admirable “well-made plays” might be something like Rabbit Hole.
The LTA production of Rabbit Hole bodes well for the company’s evolution. By community theater standards — by any standards, really — the show is both enjoyable and admirable.
It is the simplicity of life that confuses us. Life is uncomplicated. It is reduced to moments. Rabbit Hole is a sensitive and subtle play, delicate and fragile. It presents a simple emotion and analyzes how differently we survive it. The healing process takes a strange, winding, singular journey in each of us, and we must not forget the role that humor plays in allowing us to complete that journey. The family is dealt a horrible blow to their everyday simple American life. Yet there is no “how-to” guidebook, no one to show them the way. The family is given no answers. They must discover them on their own. One moment changes five lives. isn’t life reduced to simple moments in time?
Many, many thanks to this amazing production team, especially producers Bobbie, Rachel, and Maureen, stage managers Christine and Alexis, assistant stage mangers Zell and Abby, and a terrific group of creative designers and crew. Also, huge thanks to Karen Andy, Rebecca, Collin, and Rebecca for taking this journey together and enlightening me with such discoveries along the way. There’s a reference to the game of Candyland toward the end of the play, and at one of th rehearsals, the cast and I discussed that particular game-how it’s a simple game of chance. It’s uncomplicated: you pick a card and move forward a little, or a lot; you might come across the unexpected, or a few traps; you never know what’s coming next. It occurred to me that this was a wonderful metaphor for life… Especially the lives of these five characters.
As David Lindsay-Abaire said in his author’s notes in the script and in an interview: “Rabbit Hole is not a tidy play… It’s sort of that Alice in Wonderland point of view: The world is upside down, and how do I make it right again?”
Photos by Doug Olmsted
- Becca: Karen Jadlos Shotts
- Izzy: Rebecca Phillips
- Howie: Andy Izquierdo
- Nat: Rebecca Lenehan
- Jason: Collin Chute
- Voiceover-Danny: Dean McDonnell
- Producers: Rachel Albertsa nd Bobbie Herbst
- Assistant Producer: Maureen Rohn
- Director: Joanna Henry
- Stage Managers: Christine Farrell and Alexis Rose
- Assistant Stage Managers: Aberdeen Bowman and Zell Murphy
- Set Design: MYKE
- Set Construction: Dan Remmers
- Assisted by: Chris Feldmann, Jeff Gathers, Eddie Page
- Set Painting: Leslie Reed
- Assisted by: Luana Bossolo, Buffy Mechling, Bruce Schmid
- Set Decoration: Nancyanne Burton, Allen and Jean Stuhl
- Assisted by: Russell Wyland
- Lighting Design: ken and Patti Crowley
- Master Electrician: Eileen Doherty
- Assisted by: Jim Hartz, Rachel Lau, Pam Leonowich, Micheal J. O’Connor, Doug Olmsted, Dick Schwab, Marg Soroos, Adam Wallace
- Sound design: Alan Wray
- Assisted by: David Corriea, Sean Doyle, Margaret Evans-Joyce, David Hale, Anna Hawkins, Janice Rivera, Art Snow
- Property Design: Nicole Zuchetto
- Assisted by: Maya Brettell, Sherry Clarke, Jean Koppen, Benjamin Norcross, Heather Norcross, Donna Reynolds, Margaret Snow
- Costume Design: Beverley Benda
- Hair and Makeup: Robin Parker
- Wardrobe: Barbara Helsing
- Assisted by: Margaret Snow, Patti Greksouk, Rose Talbott, Annie Vroom
- Rigging: Russell Wyland
- Photographer: Doug Olmsted
- Auditions Coordinator: Maureen Rohn
- Assisted by: Barbara Helsing, Peter Hyde, Leslie Reed, Margaret Snow
- Double Tech Dinner: Ronnie Hardcastle and Ben Robles
- Opening Night party: Virginia Lacey and Frank Shutts
- Assisted by: Lloyd Bittinger, Ginny Cummings, Robert Kraus, Eddy Roger parker, Sherry Singer, Mary Beth Smith-Toomey, Carolyn Zavadil
Disclaimer: Little Theatre of Alexandria provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/7140.
Joe Adcock lives in Arlington with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. Before retiring last year at age 70, he was theater critic at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for 27 years. Prior to that, he reviewed plays for the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Texas Observer and the Swarthmore College Phoenix. Non-reviewing journalistic jobs include writing for the Houston Chronicle, the San Juan (Puerto Rico) Star and El Mundo de San Juan. Think about it: most of the papers he worked for no longer exist. Maybe this internet gig has better longevity prospects.