Like any young, modern family, Howie and Becca have seemingly rooted themselves in a safe and very typical suburban life. They own a beautiful home, all the basic amenities, and have journeyed to build their American dream like anyone else would: with love, hard work, family, kids and, yes, even a dog.
As the audience is drawn into this story like a fly on the wall, nothing appears to be amiss as two sisters sit in a clean and beautiful living room and chat like any two loving siblings on any given day. On the surface there is laundry folding (a child’s t-shirt, shorts, pants, sweaters) and talk about the younger sister’s wild night at a local bar that ended up in a brawl. Becca, the older sister, is clearly a sound and grounded, stay-at-home mom who is happily married. She is played to perfection by Suzie Cho. As she listens to her slightly rebellious but highly amusing and very charismatic younger sister Izzy (Ashley Ford) tell the tale of her exploits, we are drawn into the simplicity of the lives of these two women. We know and can connect to this shaky sibling relationship and this is what makes it a perfectly crafted play.
Written by Pulitzer prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, Rabbit Hole is, well, a “hole” that hypnotically draws you into the lives of this family. We care because we relate. This opening scene is great theatre because it is simple and very real and true to life. It is masterful. In the wrong hands it can come across as boring and at the other extreme, over-played. But in the hands of a professional troupe, which this is, it is layered and subtle and complex and fascinating. Full Spectrum theatre has accomplished something quite magnificent in their first production out of the gate and there is really nothing this critic disliked.
Rabbit Hole is a powerful story about family and love and loss. It is also about hope and the pain and challenges of moving past a great family tragedy. In this case, it is about the aftermath of the accidental death of Becca and Howie’s 6-year old boy who was hit by a car driven by a young, guilt-ridden high school senior, played by Justin Hsu. The accident happened right in front of their home which means reminders are all around and the pain is ever present. But what makes this story so compelling is the desire to hold on to dear and cherished memories.
The set is beautiful and functional and real in a venue (Davenport Theatre) that isn’t all that big. I’ve seen a few things in the space and no one has made it come to life like this production. I was drawn in immediately and never left. The lighting was professional and simple and worked in an almost cinematic fashion, knowing when to fade out slowly and enhancing the action like great lighting should. The blocking, the direction and staging where perfect. Director Maria Riboli did not miss a beat in capturing the pacing and depth of this material.
I cannot say enough about the acting. This material and dialogue can suffer as much from under-acting as it could from over-acting, but these actors were connecting in a manner that was natural and real and seemed so effortless. I seldom see this type of performance from a new troup, but not in this case. They worked beautifully together. There was not one weak performance; this ensemble gelled like a quiet running engine that needs no oiling and plows ahead without ever losing speed.
I was captivated by Ashley Ford’s work. Every expression and reaction is alive and vibrant and every delivery fully connected. As Howie, Amar Srivastava brings the complexity of having to deal with the loss of his son in a tender, but strong manner that digs deep and affects you. As a father myself, I really connected with this portrayal and left feeling with many mixed emotions. It was unforgettable. Suzie Cho as Becca gives us a character that complex and heartbreaking and strong. Her timing is impeccable. What a wonderful actor. And as the sister’s mom, Rebecca Smith brings to life how such a loss is not exclusive to just the parents but to the entire family. She is endearing, a little flaky, but loving in her loss. Justin Hsu captures the anguish and guilt of teenage Jason as he tries to deal with the sort of mistake that will forever change a young man. The acting alone is worth the price of admission.
You won’t be disappointed by this production. The notion that the loss of a child is a heavy subject that will leave you depressed as you exit the theatre is one misconception about this play that makes it a seldom produced piece. But it is great theatre when presented with confidence and strength and humor (yes, there are very funny moments). This production achieves all those things. It is easy to go catch an upbeat musical off Broadway, but enjoying a play that will leave you thinking about these characters for years to come is priceless.
Tickets are selling fast.
See this play at the Davenport Theatre on 45th Street until October 24th.
Wednesday - Saturdays @ 8PM, Sundays @ 3PM
Additional Matinee Performance: Saturday, Oct 17th @ 2pm
The Davenport Theatre
354 W 45th Street, New York, NY 10036
Tickets Available Now at: www.smarttix.com