Sometimes you just need a good cry. At least I do.
I caught the final dress rehearsal of RABBIT HOLE at Falcon Theatre and did my share of tear-shedding. But I laughed, too. And I left the theatre mightily impressed with this production.
Tara Williams plays “Becca,” a mother grieving the death of her four-year-old son, Danny. Her husband, “Howie” (Ted Weil) is also grieving, but they’re on different wavelengths with their pain. It doesn’t help that everything and everyone reminds them about Danny, including Becca’s sister “Izzy” (Katie Groneman) who’s pregnant, and her mother, “Nat” (Cathy Roesener), who lost her adult son and can’t help but make comparisons. The house is full of Danny’s stuff and no one really knows what to do with it. Nor do they know what to do with their deep feelings, their anger, their hurt, or their blame. Evan Blanton rounds out the cast as “Jason,” and his character is an unconventional vessel of healing. For Becca, at least.
David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize winning script is chock-full of drama but has its share of comedy sprinkled in, too. Groneman, especially, accentuates the laughs and with the aid of director, Tracy M. Schoster, the entire cast finds a nice balance between heart-wrenching and humorous. She has made some interesting directorial choices: blackouts fade slowly, with stark, silent scene changes. It adds to the tension and discomfort and I love the boldness of it. The set designed by both Schoster and Weil (who’s also the theatre’s artistic director) is full of home-goods; it looks lived-in and natural. And they maximize the small Falcon stage by centering Danny’s bedroom square in the middle – with lights that never dim – another reminder that his memory and his death also never seem to fade.
Williams has a way of conveying emotion with just a look. Her body carries the pain and sadness one would think comes with this sort of loss. But even when she’s angry, she’s rigid; this is frustrating to her husband, who really would like some intimate time with her. One wonders, though, how long its been since they were able to affectionate. I would guess that it wasn’t Danny’s death that caused the romance to go stagnant. Certainly it hasn’t helped.
Weil is one of Cincinnati’s greatest “every-men”; his best moments, though, are when the veneer goes away and he can be distraught and angry. He is as relatable as it gets. Roesner doesn’t overplay her hand as the mother of three strong-willed children but instead stays low-key and together; just the way you suppose she did during the loss of her own son. She’s fascinated by rich people like the Kennedy’s; there’s just something so real about her portrayal.
I really enjoyed the entire ensemble; my favorite moments involve the well-cast and touching performance of Blanton, who completely blew me away in his monologue in Act One. You’ll see what I mean . . . because you should all go see it.
This is a three, maybe four, hanky show. If you don’t cry, then you should check your pulse. Whatever you do, don’t miss this show. It’s an example of Falcon Theatre at its best.
RABBIT HOLE runs at Falcon Theatre in Newport, KY through April 8th. Tickets and more information can be found here.