Monday, March 17, 2008

"Rabbit Hole" is a deeply moving, great play

My freelance review:
When he was a student at the Juilliard School, David Lindsay-Abaire was taught by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Marsha Norman that to write a great play, write about the thing that scares you the most in the world. A few years later, as a first-time father, Lindsay-Abaire identified the thing that would scare him the most in the world -- to lose a child.

In 2007, Lindsay-Abaire would become a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright for Rabbit Hole, a production of which closes the 30th season of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' Studio Theatre series.

And what a powerful, moving play it is! As the play opens, we discover a family life that's been torn apart by an unimaginable tragedy, the accidental death of Becca and Howie Corbett's four-year-old son. The couple is in grief and are drifting dangerously apart from one another and from the identities by which they have always defined themselves.

Their extended family includes Becca's younger sister Izzy, the wild child in local bars who strives to be the center of attention, while their mother Nat -- herself having coped with the loss of a grown son -- has a bit too much wine and bluntly shares her opinions, solicited or not.

This journey through grief and healing is bittersweet, rich and surprisingly funny at times, with most of the welcomed humor courtesy of the family eccentricities.

And the actors all do a great job, too. They come across as lovingly dysfunctional as any other family! Kudos to Victoria Adams-Zischke and Timothy McCracken as the parents, Ashley West as Izzy and Carolyn Swift as Nat.

A fifth cast member, Adam King, is a junior at Webster University's Conservatory of Theatre Arts and delivers a stunning, touching performance as Jason, the young man who was driving the car that hit and killed the Corbett's son.

The intimate nature of the 125-seat Studio Theatre works quite well for this intimate production. Solid directing comes from Jane Page in her debut at the Rep. Robert Mark Morgan's scenic design is creative, visually appealing and highly effective.

The Rep's Studio Theatre scored three great wins this season. Joining Rabbit Hole was The Clean House and The Vertical Hour. Next season's Studio Theatre plays have yet to be announced, but if this season's productions are any indication of what to expect, we will not be disappointed.

Rabbit Hole plays through Mar. 30.

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