It’s a tough sell – any play about grief or loss or terminal illness… you get the picture. A play about parents dealing with the barely-comprehensible tragedy of losing a child, well it takes a brave audience to go there.
Full disclosure: I am not a parent. As an actor, I did audition for the role of Becca, the grieving mother in Rabbit Hole, because it’s a fantastic part and I absolutely adored David Lindsay-Abaire’s script, which deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007.
Alumnae Theatre Company’s production, directed by Paul Hardy, just opened on Friday (April 11), and the audience response after only two performances has been amazing. Here are a few samples:
“Beautifully acted, elegantly directed production of a moving play. Don’t miss it!”
“This play was sooo good! Really powerful and real, very sad but funny too. Loved it, highly recommend it!”
“…a brilliant play… It is poignant yet there is a wonderful levity to it too, despite its dark subject matter. The themes and subtext have been rolling around in my brain since I watched it last night… a great production.”
“A talented cast. Very well done.”
Yes, go! You will be transported into the family life of Becca (Paula Schultz) and Howie (Cameron Johnston), eight months after the sudden death of their only child, 4-year old Danny. The actors, including Joanne Sarazen as Becca’s sister Izzy and Sheila Russell as their mother Nat, are perfectly real. It’s like you know these people; you’re sitting in their very real kitchen (kudos to set designer Jacqueline Costa and the tech wizards who arranged running water onstage!) or sunken living room eating cake and chatting. Schultz has the brittle, dry-eyed quality of a woman barely holding it together as she navigates the pointless wasteland her life has become. When she accuses her husband of thinking she’s “not grieving enough for you”, you can feel the pain of both parents.
Must particularly mention the scene transitions. Sometimes they can be awkward moments in semi-darkness when actors or stagehands move furniture or place props for the next scene. In this production of Rabbit Hole, Hardy has the actors smoothly pick up props, replace a chair into position, etc. in a sort of gentle dream-state. Meanwhile, Angus Barlow’s original compositions perfectly underscore the moment. As Hardy hoped, “the music is like a character onstage who speaks when silence falls over the performers.” Exactly. The silent moment at the end of the play is just stunning.
So’s the whole thing, actually. But you can see for yourself – Rabbit Hole runs to April 26. Tickets can be purchased online at www.alumnaetheatre.com, or check the site for other options. There’s a 2pm matinee today – no reservations required, and it’s PWYC. RUN!