Theater Reviews

May 28, 2008 at 1:10 am

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


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