Howie and Becca’s home is lived in, is comfortable, is convenient, and there is something terribly wrong. The humor is forced. It is as though they are wearing masks. They don’t seem real. And they are not. They are hiding a tremendous pain. The pain of losing a son, even before he would have entered kindergarten.
Rabbit Hole, playwright David Lindsay-Abaire’s exploration of such a tragic loss, is currently at Poway’s community theatre, PowPAC, under the excellent direction of Sherrie Colbourn.
When we first meet Becca (Kaly McKenna) and Howie (Steve Oliver) their mourning of the death of their son is not apparent. Izzy (Miranda Porter), Becca’s younger sister, pops in pregnant, not married, smart-mouthed, and happy. The night before, she had cold-cocked a noisy woman sitting beside her at a bar . . . her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend. (It’s a long story, you’ll love it.) Porter’s Izzy is in part comic relief and in part a look into the future and excitement of being a new mother. The contrast between Izzy and Becca is amazing.
Sitting there, voyeuristically, while Becca and Howie transition to the depths of depression is a tense experience. (Tissues at ready.) The controlled acting of McKenna and Oliver is absolutely riveting. The passion explodes, at moments, into anger, as either parent thrusts out, attacking somebody or themselves. We feel their pain. We also feel Becca’s mother Nat’s (Karen Lust) anguish for the loss and for her earlier loss. Rabbit Hole’s script feels totally natural. We meet only in passing Jason (Stephen Stetak). He is a nice kid with a terrible burden that he doesn’t know how to handle.
The performances throughout are excellent. The final scene of Act One is one of the tensest scenes in theatre lately. McKenna, in a second act scene with Stetak is a mastery of control as she extremely slowly goes from normal social conversation to a breakdown. Wow! Lust gives us a taste of reality with her character’s explanation of grief. Oliver’s transition into the depths of pain and anger are so, so real. Stetak plays a young person that cannot really understand just how bad the pain can become. Porter brings her own style of warmth in her character, as well as the needed laughs.
Barbara Seagren’s set is totally real, though her upstairs bedroom could have been just it bit higher and the wall indications just a bit more prominent. The rest of the designers enhanced the production. The prop folks populated the set with a convincing array of items. The obviously working VCR is a nice touch.
I hope I haven’t painted Rabbit Hole too darkly. There is an almost balance of amusement and reality. One does feel like we shouldn’t be there at times. Most of us have never experienced the emotion of losing a young child. The play has been an enlightening experience.
Kaly McKenna, Steve Oliver, Miranda Porter, Karen Lust, Stephen Stetak
Producer Debbie David, AD/SM Christine Putnam, 2nd AD/SM Laurie Davies, Set Designer Barbara Seagren, Set Decoration/Props Sabato Fiorello & Sherrie Colbourn, Sound Designer David Farlow, Lighting Designer Chad Oakley & Bill Murphy, Tech Bill Murphy, Costume Designer Arlene Darden
Total Rating: Three Stars
Author: David Lindsay-Abaire
Director: Sherrie Colbourn
Date Reviewed: March 7, 2008
Dates: Weekends, March 7 to March 30, 2008
Running Time: 121 minutes with a 15-minute intermission
Caution Guidance: Adult situations and language
13250 Poway Road
Poway, CA 92064
Box Office Phone (858) 679-8085