By David Lindsay Abaire
Directed by Naomi Edwards
With Erin Dewar, Martin Sharpe, Kat Stewart, Jenny Lovell, & David Whiteley
GREEN ROOM AWARDS Nomination Best Actor: Martin Sharpe (Rabbit Hole / The Little Dog Laughed)
Set Design by Andrew Bellchambers
Lighting by Stelios Karagiannis
Stage Manager Isobel Ferns
Rabbit Hole (March 8 – April 7, 2007) Chris Boyd, Herald Sun 16/03/07
Grief and Anger are tightly bound emotions. The more sudden and tragic the loss, the greater the need to lash out in its aftermath. Dearest or nearest. It doesn’t matter who.
Director Naomi Edwards shrewdly links the story of this play to the actions of the US government post-September 11. Al-Qaeda hits us, we’ll hit Iraq. Near enough. They’ve both got Qs in them.
But, sensibly, Edwards directs the play as a family drama: detailed, complex, taut and intense. Every reaction is heightened, and amplified to emotional redline.
The play begins several months after the accidental death of a four-year-old boy. Becca (Kat Stewart) has gradually removed – stored, hidden, given away – every reminder of her dead child. She even wants to sell the family home. Her husband Howie (David Whiteley) resists. He wants the dog back, photographs back up and the drawings back on the fridge.
Becca’s tearaway younger sister Izzy (Erin Dewar) – who has just punched out a woman at a bar – announces she’s pregnant to her “working musician” boyfriend.
Meanwhile the young man (Martin Sharpe) who drove the car that hit the boy wants to visit the family.
The plot, such as it is, is incidental. The interest is in the rawness of the interaction and the rigid and brittle power balance.
As we’ve come to expect from Red Stitch, the production is utterly professional, timely (the play premiered last year in New York) and brilliantly acted.
Whiteley surely is the most consistent and versatile actor in Melbourne at the moment. And he’s in good company here. Dewar, in particular, nails her role, turning thin caricature into someone we can walk around.
Kate Rose, Sunday Herald Sun 18/03/07
BECCA and Howie Colbert have barely survived every parent’s worst nightmare and are trying to rebuild their lives in New York after the death of their young son.
When Becca’s sister Izzy — the loud, hard-partying, fast-living, irresponsible sister — announces she’s pregnant, it’s all Becca can do to keep her resentment under wraps.
Despite the gloomy premise of David Lindsay-Abaire’s play, it is still infused with a wry humour that saves it from turning into a dirge.
Instead, it is a complex, insightful study of family, loss, grief, survival and forgiveness. The wry observations on the conditional nature of friendship and society’s inability to deal with the loss of a child are biting and brilliant.
The acting is superb and Kat Stewart and David Whiteley shine as the bereaved parents who are coming to terms not only with their son’s death, but the damage it has done to their relationship. Whiteley excels at contained rage, while Stewart’s desperation is almost tangible.
Erin Dewar, as Izzy, and Jenny Lovell, as the sisters’ mother, maintain the dignity of their characters despite the chaos they often leave behind them.
And the newly renovated Red Stitch theatre was perfect as the lounge room setting of the play. Naomi Edwards’s direction found the right balance between the innate claustrophobia of the play, taking place as it does in one house, and the freedom attained by the characters as they slowly reconciled themselves with fate.
Thuy On, The Australian (12/03/07)
RENOVATIONS are afoot at the Red Stitch Actors Theatre; the larger space a testament to its popularity after five years as one of Melbourne’s most successful independent theatre companies.
Despite the fresh paintwork and enlarged exterior shell, however, it’s reassuring to know that some things never change. Rabbit Hole is a typical example of what Red Stitch does best: source and premier a contemporary, relatively unknown work from overseas.
Directed by Naomi Edwards, David Lindsay-Abaire’s play is very much a kitchen-sink drama and a weepie-Kleenex one at that, but this is not to dismiss its power and emotional pull.
What starts off with the easy quips of a sitcom slowly takes a detour to reveal a portrait of a family in crisis. Becca (Kat Stewart) and Howie (David Whiteley) are an average middle-American couple but there’s a hole at the centre of their universe: eight months ago, their only child, Danny, was killed in a motor accident and to put the situation in gross understatement, “things aren’t nice any more”.
Much to her husband’s chagrin, Becca copes by systematically trying to physically erase all evidence of her four-year-old son. Howie, meanwhile, attends a support group and clings on to the last video images of Danny smiling in the sun. Neither approach works, of course.
It doesn’t help matters that Becca’s irresponsible sister Izzy (Erin Dewar) has recently announced her pregnancy, nor that her mother Nat (Jenny Lovell) advises faith as a healing balm. As though the blame game isn’t difficult enough, the unexpected appearance of the driver, Jason (Martin Sharpe), cranks the tension up tenfold.
Stewart and Whiteley, long-term principals of Red Stitch, are, as always, eloquent and restrained in their performances and when they do blow up and break down, the grief is so raw it takes your breath away.
It’s a credit to Lindsay-Abaire, Edwards and the ensemble cast that despite its bleak theme, Rabbit Hole doesn’t feel like a manipulative or histrionic tearjerker. The occasional light-hearted banter from the exuberant Dizzy Izzy and the well-meaning but overbearing Nat goes a long way in sweetening the bitterness.
Sharpe’s awkward and remorseful teenager, too, is well handled.
Notwithstanding Jason’s culpability, his character is treated with sympathy. Like Becca and Howie, he carries guilt around like a brick in his pocket.
The title, referring to a sci-fi story written by Jason about holes in space leading to parallel universes and therefore infinite possibilities, offers some small solace to Becca. Perhaps after all, there’s another dimension where things are different and she could be happy again.