Theater Reviews

Bunbury’s
‘Rabbit Hole’ re-imagines grief and coping

(Bunbury
Theatre presents David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Rabbit Hole,” directed
by Matt Orme. Continues through June 1. Call 585-5306 or visit
www.bunburytheatre.org.)

Rabbit Hole: The cast of Bunbury’s “Rabbit Hole” includes Neil Brewer, Laura Stuart Obenauf, Carol Tyree Williams, Raquel Robbins Cecil and Ted Lesley.

Rabbit Hole: The cast of Bunbury’s “Rabbit Hole” includes Neil Brewer, Laura Stuart Obenauf, Carol Tyree Williams, Raquel Robbins Cecil and Ted Lesley.

Why
is it when people talk about parallel universes, they always imagine
themselves better off in them? Is this one so terrible? Why not
consider the one where things are much bleaker, and be glad you’re
here?

In
David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Rabbit Hole,” a grieving mother takes
comfort in the probability that in another universe, she’s happy.
The term “rabbit hole” (from “Alice in Wonderland”) denotes a
leap into an unknown, bewildering environment. The play explores this
upper-middle-class family’s process of adjusting to the unexpected
circumstance that led to their son’s death.

Becca
(Laura Stuart Obenauf) can’t (or won’t) deal with her 5-year-old
son’s death. Her husband, Howie (Ted Lesley), is hurt that Becca is
giving away all of Danny’s things, including the dog he chased into
the street where he was hit by a high school boy. He feels she’s
trying to “erase” Danny. In a heart-wrenching scene, Howie,
drinking a Blue Moon, re-watches a videotape of him playing a
make-believe game with Danny night after night.

Life,
fortunately or not, goes on, and as the play begins, Becca’s sister
Izzy (Raquel Robbins Cecil) stops by uncharacteristically and jabbers
about her recent bar fight with another woman. While eating Becca’s
crème brulee, Izzy drops the bomb that she’s pregnant. Becca
immediately offers Danny’s clothes. Izzy (and the audience) is
stunned that she wouldn’t think it odd to see her nephew running
around in Danny’s clothes. Obviously, Becca still isn’t thinking
clearly.

We
all deal with grief in our own way, even when it’s shared. The play
holds out the promise that sometimes comfort comes when you least
expect it. In the most touching scene, Becca allows Jason (Neil
Brewer), the driver who hit Danny, to visit. He eats her lemon
squares and recounts his prom date. Becca bursts into tears, finally
reaching the catharsis she’s been avoiding.

I
hate to chide an audience, but Friday night’s deserves it. Cell
phones were left on vibrate, or not even turned off. Yes, we can hear
those distracting buzzing sounds. Someone left during Act Two to take
a call. We could hear him speaking just outside the theater until
someone went out to shush him. A woman who kept talking to her friend
in a loud voice as if she were at the mall food court further marred
the performance. By the end of the evening, we were wishing she would
disappear down a rabbit hole as well. —Sherry
Deatrick

•••

As
Yet Unnamed salvages
‘Gamma Rays’

(The
As Yet Unnamed Theatre Company presents Paul Zindel’s “The
Effects of Gamma Rays On Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds,” directed by
Sandra Richens Cohrs. Continues through June 1 at the MeX Theater.
Call 584-7777 or visit www.myspace.com/ayutc.)

“The
Effects of Gamma Rays On Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds” exposes a
rather harsh and painful side of family life. Written in 1964 by
playwright Paul Zindel, it’s an inherently bleak script. The As Yet
Unnamed Theatre Company put forth a well acted yet awkwardly paced
adaptation of this hard-bitten play. The technical cues were either
oddly placed or consistently late. Abrupt darkness and sudden light
fades occurred in what seemed like every scene. It was difficult to
tell if this was intentional or part of uncertain directing.

Elaine
Hackett plays the bitter, alcoholic widow Beatrice Hunsdorfer. This
is a demanding role, and Hackett could have used a bit of a push over
the edge into complete and utter depravity. There are no men in the
play or in Beatrice’s life because all have apparently abandoned
her. Pretty much everything in the path of this woman is doomed. She
is self-destructive, self-loathing, cynical and abusive. Ruth (Sarah
Meuler), her older daughter who suffers epileptic fits, is so
self-absorbed that she seems close to becoming the monster that her
mother is. Hannah Gregory as daughter Tillie offers the only solace
in the play. She performs the innocence of her character perfectly,
giving clear opposition to her mother’s rage.

When
the cast seems too tame, it may be that Zindel himself doesn’t
offer the kind of irreverence and cruelty that one has come to expect
in such stories of comparable degradation, like John Waters’
“Female Trouble” or any number of anecdotes by David Sedaris
about his own mother. —Joey
Yates

Contact
the writers at

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