August 23, 2014
"Rabbit Hole" is a straight play written by David Lindsay-Abaire, the winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It tells about how a young couple, Becca and Howie, struggles to deal with the loss of their five-year old son Danny, who died in a car accident eight months ago. The drama intensifies as Becca's irresponsible younger sister Izzy gets pregnant. Furthermore, Becca's mother Nat could not stop talking about her own son Arthur, a heroin addict who committed suicide at the age of 30 several years ago. Also, Jason, the teenager who drove the car that killed her son, dedicated a sci-fi short story he wrote about parallel universes and "rabbit holes" to Danny's memory.
The script of the play was written with much sensitivity to express those persistently negative emotions felt by people who cannot get over their grieving. It is a very sad play from beginning to end. The general tone of the play is quiet with simmering tension. There was no big explosive hysterical scene that blows up at the end. There were occasional arguments which make the characters flare up with pain and bitterness they have pent up inside. Admittedly, this can be a difficult topic to sit through for two hours.
Agot Isidro was very restrained in her portrayal of Becca, the mother who wanted to erase every trace of her dead son in her house. The script gives her character several dramatic highlights and she nails all those complex emotions. Never mind that this was her first dramatic straight play she had ever done in her long showbiz career. That fact certainly did not show in her vivid performance. Cynthia Nixon won the 2006 Tony for Best Actress in a Play when she originated this role in Broadway. Nicole Kidman earned an Oscar nomination in the 2011 movie version of this play. Ms Isidro will definitely be cited as well.
Michael Williams plays Becca's husband Howie who, despite being seemingly composed, also cannot deal well with Danny's death. Of course, Williams was as solid as ever, but there was something about the performance that did not come across as realistic for me. Perhaps there was little chemistry between him and Agot? I do not know. Or maybe I was expecting more? The role of Howie had a lot of intense moments in the film version. I even felt Aaron Eckhart acted so much better than Nicole Kidman, who had all the citations.
Che Ramos-Cosio plays Izzy. With her zinging one-liners, she plays the comic relief in this otherwise relentlessly morose play. Ms. Ramos was very effective in her role. She certainly proved her range as an actress to me, as she looked and acted nothing like how I first saw her in the indie film "Mariquina."
Ross Pesigan plays Jason. He only had three scenes which were all terribly uncomfortable to watch given the role of his character. Thankfully, Mr. Pesigan possessed that youthful charm which this character needed to gain the audience's sympathy to his situation.
Sheila Francisco shines in another rather dysfunctional maternal role as Nat. Dianne Wiest played this role in the movie version, and was so warm in her portrayal. Ms. Francisco gives her Nat a sassy charm. I was very impressed with her "mom-from-hell" Violet in Rep's "August Osage Country" earlier this year. Ms. Francisco also owned that role even though she was "only" the alternate of Ms. Baby Barredo. Ms. Francisco just had her solo "Triple Threat" concert at the CCP two nights ago within this play's run, a feat that deserves big applause.
After "Closer" and "Cock" last year, Red Turnip continues in its quest to stage plays with the most challenging, non-mainstream themes with "Rabbit Hole." Unlike their first two plays with bare sets, this play had a complex beautiful set depicting a well-furnished suburban house. There were a lot of delicious-looking food items being served and eaten by the cast in the course of the play. I was hoping I would get a taste of the birthday cake, the lemon squares, and the zucchini bread as well after the show. But of course, that was only wishful thinking.
Congratulations to Mr. Topper Fabregas on his directorial debut. He had led the cast and the rest of his crew in successfully bringing this heavy play to a more accessible life.
"Rabbit Hole" plays only up to next weekend. Remaining shows are on August 24 at 4 pm, August 29 at 9 pm, August 30 at 4 pm and 8 pm, August 31 at 4 pm and 8 pm. The play is being staged at Whitespace 2314 Chino Roces Ext., Makati City.