“…to expand our perceptions of who looks and sounds like an American in order to highlight our connections beyond the surface of race, ethnicity and accents” is the core mission of this new theater company. With this excellent inaugural production that is performed by a strong multiracial cast they have fulfilled that goal.
Set in contemporary Westchester, the play concerns the aftermath of a family tragedy. The late 30’s married couple, Becca and financial executive Howie, is grieving over the death of their four-year-old son Danny who was killed in a traffic accident eight months earlier. Becca’s lively younger sister Izzy and their colorful mother Nat are around to share their perceptions. Also part of the action is Jason the 17-year-old high school senior who was the driver of the car that led to the catastrophe.
With its realistic and detailed dialogue, Mr. Lindsay-Abaire’s very well constructed script is a superior work of playwriting containing many humorous and moving dramatic exchanges. It is beautifully realized by director Maria Riboli’s sensitive, accomplished, and subtle staging. That the racially diverse cast appears to be an actual family is a testament to her talents.
For the role of Becca in the original New York production, Cynthia Nixon won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play. The 2010 film adaptation starred Nicole Kidman who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Here the engaging Suzie Cho plays this challenging role with a masterful blend of melancholy and spiritedness. Ms. Cho vividly conveys the character’s grief, “I’m coping,” as well as her light-hearted moments with tremendous focus and her powerful performance is the centerpiece of the play.
Amar Srivastava brilliantly ranges from straightforward to explosive as the troubled husband Howie. The personable Mr. Srivastava wonderfully captures the role’s many facets and his tantrum following the destruction of a memento of his son is shattering.
Ashley Ford’s performance as Izzy the floundering and resentful younger sister is a marvelous combination of quirkiness and fierceness. Ms. Ford’s reactions to an undesirable birthday gift are a priceless display of expressiveness.
Hilariously ruminating about The Kennedys is a highlight of the work of the vivacious Rebecca Smith who plays the wise and compassionate mother Nat. Ms. Smith sails through the play with superb comic timing and dramatic depth as she recounts her character’s own experiences with grief.
Justin Hsu earnestly and hauntingly performs as Jason, the high school student who is the catalyst of all the conflicts that are presented.
The confined unit set by scenic designer Kevin Klakouski artfully presents a living room, kitchen, and a child’s bedroom with impressive scope. Anton Smailov’s fine lighting design transitions each scene with clarity. The simple and authentic costumes of Pat Christodulidis straightforwardly present the cast as the people they’re supposed to be.
Rabbit holes are referred to by characters in the play as parallel universes:
So even the most unlikely events have to take place somewhere, including other universes with versions of us leading different lives, or maybe the same lives with a couple of things changed.
Well, that’s a nice thought. That somewhere out there I’m having a good time.
Multiracial or “colorblind” casting has been a controversial issue in the theater. The relative universality of Rabbit Hole lends itself to such an approach and is an ideal selection. Nothing comes across as a gimmick or strains credibility. The expert ensemble and skilled direction of this production successfully prove the worthiness of exploring this belief.
Rabbit Hole (through October 24, 2015)
Full Spectrum Theatre Company
The Davenport Theatre, 354 West 45th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-868-4444 or visit http://www.fullspectrumtheatre.com
Running time: two hours including one intermission