Sunday, May 14, 2017

Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire

L - R Jordana Oberman, Toni Christopher, Michael Yurchak - Photos by John Geronilla

By Joe Straw

Winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize – This I had to see.  Had to. – Narrator

After working in legitimate theatre with the Netherlander Organization (The Pantages) I moved on to Equity Waiver Theater.  This was in 1980 and it was a painful downgrade. The Equity Waiver houses were very small, mostly rundown, the budgets were minuscule, but I worked where I could find work for little or no money.  I paid to be in one show, the outcome was not pretty especially to a nasty Drama Logue critic. But, mostly I went to theatre just to see what was going on out there.

Since that time there has been an enormous growth in intimate theatre spread all over the city from North Hollywood, to Glendale and Pasadena, to the theatres downtown, on to theatre row on Santa Monica Boulevard, each with their own flavor, adding their own spice to the theatrical life in Los Angeles.  

Equity waiver gave way to the AEA 99-seat theatre rule and with those accommodations, and over a period of time, the acting got significantly better. - Narrator

There are times I go to theatre to see a show that has someone I know or have seen from time to time. This show was different in that all of the actors were new to me, their work was unusual and their acting chops were significant.

The Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire directed by Eric Hunicutt and produced by JTK Productions is playing at The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood and has been extended through May 21, 2017.  

Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire and directed by Eric Hunicutt is an amazing show that everyone should run to see!  It is brilliant in execution and flawless in hitting the moments that send a giant zing straight into the heart.

Hunicutt’s work was magic, out of the ordinary, and expressively exquisite. At some point during the course of the performance the lives of the characters enveloped this onlooker.  Such work of this magnitude is rarely seen in intimate theatres, with its rigorous simplicity, and in the way the characters gloriously blend in saudade making this a magnificent night.

Although Rabbit Hole is a comedy, it is a story of parental grief - the results of losing their small child in an automobile accident. And, it starts so unexpectedly.  One feels the family portrait, right there on the mantle, where there is none.  

Rabbit Hole is the story of smart ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances who are trapped - in a room of prodigious improbability - that maybe someone, someone at some time, will take a moment and share what’s in their heart. But when they do reveal secrets it is done in a most uncomfortable and unusual way. 

Izzy (Toni Christopher) can’t wait to tell her sister Becca (Jordana Oberman) the news about this obnoxious woman at the bar, someone who came up to her and started screaming.  The outcome was that Izzy hit her and knocked her to the floor.

Izzy blames it on coping with life and death.

“No, you’re not allowed to use him.” Becca

Danny’s death is the thing that no one can talk about; I mean, seriously talk about. (Although dead for eight months one did not see any kind of photograph of Danny anywhere.)

Also, things, important information doesn’t come out easily for Izzy who lacks the ability to be a reliable reporter. Who was the woman?  Why was she screaming?  What was she yelling about?

Meticulously Becca pries the information out of Izzy as though she were using the Jaws of Life.  

“People don’t scream in your face for no reason.” Becca

“Sure they do.  You should get out more.” – Izzy

“Were you sleeping with him?” – Becca

Leave it to the truth seeker, Becca. But, that’s not all, Izzy is also pregnant.

Later that night Howie (Michael Yurchak) and Becca get comfortable, talk about Becca’s pregnant sister, turn the lights down low, and turn up Al Green before things start falling apart.

“…For you to be roping me into sex when I don’t wanna have it? – Becca

“I wasn’t roping you into anything. Jesus.” – Howie

“No?  Al Green isn’t roping?” – Becca

Eight months after the accident Becca is not ready especially when she sees Danny all over the house, his toys, his fingerprints, and for all of that she wants to move, sell the house.   Howie can only consider it and when Becca walks upstairs, Howie turns on the VCR tape and watches his son on the television.

L - R Jordana Oberman, Toni Christopher, Darcy Shean

Just when you think things couldn’t get worse Nat (Darcy Shean), mother of the two sisters, celebrates Izzy’s birthday, by parlaying stories about the Kennedys and their tragedies, a circuitous route to make a point about death making sense.

Holding on to one last secret Becca enters Danny’s room and surreptitiously opens a letter from Jason (Rocky Collins).  It is a letter of apology.

Jordana Oberman brings a very nice simplicity to the character Becca.  She listens, and hears everything, asking questions when things don’t make sense.  And, with her family, a lot of things don’t make sense. Becca is living on the edge and she is about ready to explode only going so far to release some of that explosiveness. The clothes, the dog, the yelling lady only make sense when everyone gets the information. Oberman is quirky, slightly offbeat, and perfect for the role.  In short it is a wonderful performance that audiences should run to see.

Toni Christopher has this deep, kind of scratchy voice that is also powerful. Izzy is slightly offbeat and a matching pair with her sister.  Izzy at first glance doesn’t have clue, in her love life, her job life, and her family life. She’s made a lot of mistakes, a history of drinking, and getting into trouble the family constantly repeats. One would hope that Izzy would find a way to effectively communicate with her sister.  But the charm of it is that it is part of the makeup of that family, of not taking care of the metaphorical elephant in the room. Christopher’s objective is strong and her work is outstanding especially the small touches when she enters and leaves the room.

The women in his life over match Howie. They are a lot smarter when catching him at things he should not be doing. Michael Yurchak puts a lot of emotional life into the character, and as Howie he is probably the most emotional one of the bunch. No one really blames him for the accident but in the back of his mind he probably feels that pain everyday.  Yurchak brings it on this night, yes he does. And, it is an emotional tour de force.

Darcy Shean plays Nat, a mother who seems rich and slightly daft but is very lovable. Nat can’t get to the meat of the matter when discussing the emotional needs of her children. But she is more than willing to throw her money around when someone needs help. Except when it comes to the dog.  She must harbor some kind of resentment to buy the cheapest dog food on the shelf making the dog turn enormous during his brief stay.

Jordana Oberman, Rocky Collins

Rocky Collins plays the young man Jason who has, in effect, accidentally created this whole mess the family lives with. In his way he tries very hard to communicate with that family just to say he is sorry. He lives with the accident, everyday, and needs an outlet to express his apology. Collins has a very grand style rooted in simplicity, the uncomfortable feelings, taking his fists and rubbing his knuckles while expressing his thoughts, thinking onstage before moving on, trying his best to communicate his thoughts before his time ends with them. Collins has a wonderful and dramatic stage presence.  

Lily Bartenstein, Scenic and Light Design, creates a wonderful space for the actors.  The space is small for Larchmont, NY home but works well with the limited space.

Wonderfully produced by Kayla Cagan who is making her producing debut in a remarkable production.  

Other members of the crew are as follows:

Serena Duffin – Costume Design
Jason Whitton – Sound Design
Jeff Miller – Stage Manager
Mark Gokel – Stage Manager

Run! Run! Run! And take a friend who is confused by the complexities of life.
Information: (917) 407-3346.

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