Tri-State Theater

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Saturday, December 06, 2014

"Rabbit Hole" - A Review

  We're blessed with lots of community theatre productions in our area, but precious few are what most of us would classify as serious drama. 

   That's especially true at this time of year, when we're happily overrun with holiday shows, including Scrooge (with at least four versions on that story this month), O. Henry and assorted takes on the Christmas story.   

   We're always glad to see those shows, of course, but thankfully there are groups willing to tackle more weighty matters - and a great example is the one non-holiday show being offered this month: Rabbit Hole, which is being presented by ARTS (Arts Resources for the Tri-State) in Huntington.

   There's nothing light and fluffy about it. The drama follows the story of a couple who have suffered the worst nightmare of every parent: their child was killed in an accident. Here we see a true-life look at how they deal with the tragedy.

   It's a raw, honest take on a difficult subject, but while the story can be heart-wrenching (you'll certainly need a hanky more than once), it also has an uplifting, human side, and offers hope and redemption.

   It features a small but amazing cast - there are five actors in the play: 

   Amy Carlson plays Becca, the mother who struggles to make sense of a senseless event. It's an amazing, heartfelt and realistic performance of a woman whose emotions dance just below the surface, always threatening to spill over into anger or pain or tears.

   Her husband Howie is played by Len Trent, a man who’s fighting to fix something that it may not be possible to mend - his wife and his marriage. It’s a raw, powerful portrayal. Len has demonstrated in recent years that he’s a master of playing intense roles, but this adds new depths. 

   Izzy is played by Joanna Berner, and she provides some of the much-needed comic relief as the vulgar, irresponsible and often delightful sister of Becca. She has an amazing knack for saying - and doing - the wrong thing at the wrong time, which only increases the tension. 

   Linda Reynolds plays Nat, the Mom of the two sisters, and she offers an interesting perspective on how a mother deals with the death of a child, since she has prior experience. Linda is a master of comic performances, but it’s wonderful to see her tackle a “straight” role. She’s amazing, of course, but watch out - she’ll break your heart with just the tiniest move. 

   Tristan Reynolds plays the only outsider in the show - a teenager named Jason. He’s directly connected to the loss and fighting to make sense of it from his own perspective. It’s a sensitive, thoughtful portrayal of a young man going through his own kind of pain.   

   Rabbit Hole won a Pulitzer Prize, and it’s easy to see why - it’s an intelligent, powerful script that never takes the easy or expected route. 

    The production company has done an impressive job bringing the story to life. They created a realistic set that makes up the home of Becca and Howie, right down to the living room, kitchen and their son’s bedroom. The lighting and sound are subtle and professionally produced.
   Kudos to director Mike Murdock and his production crew for crafting one of the year’s best shows. It’s not for kids - it includes plenty of adult language and emotional content - but it’s a show that should not be missed. 

   Highly, highly recommended!  

  Rabbit Hole is presented at the Renaissance Ballroom at 900 8th Street in Huntington on Dec. 6, 12 and 13 at 8 p.m. Tickets for dinner and the show are $30 (reservations required - call 304-733-2787) - show only is $15.

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