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Keegan Theatre Rabbit Hole

By • Jul 11th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
Rabbit Hole
Keegan Theatre: (Info) (Web)
Church Street Theater, Washington DC
Through July 21st
2:15 with one intermission
$35/$30 Senior, Student
Reviewed July 6th, 2013

Keegan Theatre has established itself as a company that dedicates itself to thought-provoking, heartfelt, and painfully immediate work. Its most recent production of David Lindsay-Abaire’s award-winning play, Rabbit Hole, is no exception to that rule. Headed by director Kerri Rambow, the production serves the play astutely, honoring its necessary moments of humor, sadness, tension, and lacerating truth.

Rabbit Hole is a stunning family drama that explores one family’s will to survive after monumental loss. It centers around Becca and Howie, a New York couple, eight months after the death of their four-year old son, Danny. Throughout the play, Becca and Howie occupy themselves with birthday parties, cozy wine-filled nights, and pastry baking. However, these attempts at normalcy cannot mask the lingering and terribly raw grief that Becca and Howie feel for their son.

Lindsay-Abaire’s script is undoubtedly a gratifying challenge for any actor to take on. In his playwright’s notes, Linsday-Abaire writes that while Rabbit Hole is about a family in mourning, its inhabitants are “highly functional, unsentimental, spirited, and often funny people” who try to navigate their way through their grief to the best of their ability. Indeed, the humor in this play is essential, something that Rambow clearly understands.

Keegan’s company uses Lindsay-Abaire’s wit, grace, and rhetorical skill to its near-fullest capacity. Keegan’s actors present an honest depiction of a family in a throes of grief who try maintain that delicate balance between falling into ruts of paralyzing sadness and finding the will to carry on.

The women in particular are the production’s crowning glories. Susan Rhea is stellar as Becca, who takes on the role with grace as she grieves for Danny in her own way while attempting to maintain some control over her life. Indeed, Rhea comfortably inhabits the play’s silent moments with mesmerizing tension and well-placed weariness, making her performance all the more impressive. Linda High’s take on Becca’s mother, Nat, is equally applaudable. Her mother-daughter dynamic with Rhea makes their relationship quite believable, and her astute layering of insight and comedy is delightful and well-received. Shayna Blass’ eccentric and sarcastic performance as Izzy — Becca’s younger sister — inspirits the play, providing much-needed comedic interludes that do not distract from its gravity and weight.

Only one critique exists where the women are concerned. Considering the relationship between Izzy and Becca and the apparent age range between Blass and Rhea, their dynamic better resembles that between a mother and a daughter rather than two sisters. While this certainly does not diminish the play’s overall effect, when Becca reprimands Izzy for taking part in a bar fight, it comes across as a scolding session instead of a heated discussion.

Founder and Artistic Director Mark Rhea — married to Susan Rhea — plays Howie, the grieving father, with honesty. His proclivity towards outwardly directed bitterness contrasts well with Becca’s arguably more controlled efforts at grieving. However, the pacing during some of Rhea’s moments of silent anger and sadness are a bit slow. This caused certain scenes to take longer than were perhaps necessary. As the sixteen year-old, Jason, who was involved with Danny’s accidental death, Patrick Joy takes on the role earnestly, channeling a good amount of teenage awkwardness and self-awareness. His scene with Becca as they discuss the rabbit holes in his short story dedicated to Danny is absolutely mesmerizing, particularly following Becca’s sudden breakdown.

For a play as personal as Rabbit Hole, it makes sense to set it in a hyper-realistic New York home. 4Points Design Collective has designed for Keegan a meticulously detailed two-story home featuring granite table tops, working stairs leading to the floor above, and walls covered with abstract art. Upon entering the theatre, the audience is transported into the Corbett’s suburban home. Perhaps most impressive — and haunting — is Danny’s bedroom on the second story. Brightly colored and decorated with robot sheets, drawings on the wall, and children’s books on the shelf, the very memory of Danny literally lingers above the couples’ heads. Indeed, scattered throughout the house are more reminders of their old life: broken toys, “creepy” Elmo dolls, and baby pictures serve as constant reminders that the pain never really goes away, but is something that you “carry around – like a brick in your pocket.” Despite the meticulousness of the set’s design, the only distracting element is a seemingly unfinished set of stairs.

Rabbit Hole, which runs through July 21st, allows its audience a public viewing of a family’s private life. The beauty of this play is that it speaks to something to which anyone could relate. Keegan Theatre’s performance is an astutely staged and moving piece that speaks to the universal notions of blame and individual means of grappling with grief after the death of a loved one. When you count the success of this production, this season’s final production of A Few Good Men, the fact that Mark Rhea just purchased the rights to the Church Street theater, and exciting news surrounding its upcoming season, it appears that Keegan Theatre has much to celebrate.

Photo Gallery

Susan Marie Rhea, Mark A. Rhea Shayna Blass, Linda High
Susan Marie Rhea, Mark A. Rhea
Shayna Blass, Linda High
Mark A. Rhea Patrick Joy
Mark A. Rhea
Patrick Joy
Susan Marie Rhea Mark A. Rhea, Susan Marie Rhea
Susan Marie Rhea
Mark A. Rhea, Susan Marie Rhea

Photos by C. Stanley Photography

Cast

  • Becca: Susan Marie Rhea
  • Howie: Mark Rhea
  • Izzy: Shayna Blass
  • Nat: Linda High
  • Jason: Patrick Joy

Artistic Team

  • Director: Kerri Rambow
  • Set Design: 4Point Design Collective (comprising of Stefan Gibson, Matt Corell, Mark Johnson, and Ricardo Seijo)
  • Sound Design: Tony Angelini
  • Set Dressing and Properties Design: Carol Floretta H. Baker
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Timothée Courouble
  • Stage Manager: Dan Deiter
  • Hair and Makeup Design: Craig Miller
  • Costume Design: Kelly Peacock
  • Assistant Director/Lighting Design: Megan Thrift
  • Assistant Properties Design: Katrina Wiskup

Disclaimer: Keegan Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is a recent graduate of Guilford College with a major in Theatre Studies -- history/literature track -- and a minor in German Language and Society from Rockville, MD. He is currently pursuing his interests in dramaturgy. He is currently the dramaturg for Field Trip Theatre's workshop and staged reading of local playwright Adi Stein's The Will. He is also working on several adaptation projects. Jacob's web site

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