WHERE: Schenectady Civic Players, 12 S. Church St.
WHEN: through Feb. 8
HOW MUCH: $17
MORE INFO: 382-2081, or http://civicplayers.org
“The heart asks pleasure first/And then excuse from pain/And then those little anodynes/That deaden suffering.”
— Emily Dickinson
Right, Becca (Amy M. Lane) might say. This is my life, months after the accidental death of my four-year-old son. Will there ever be relief?
David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Rabbit Hole” is a series of scenes exploring a family’s reaction to this unthinkable event, culminating in two powerful moments: Grandmother Nat’s (Laural Hayes) monologue about grief and a conversation between Becca and Jason (Ryan Glynn), the motorist who struck Daniel.
The excellent cast of five, under Jennifer Van Iderstyne’s insightful direction, paces the story’s unfolding with just the right amount of pathos and humor.
Those familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s study of grief will recognize its stages, and the play occasionally feels clinical. But Lindsay-Abaire always reminds us that life goes on: Becca’s sister, the light-hearted Izzy (Katherine Stephens), announces her pregnancy, and there are frequent references to the children of friends.
Nat herself serves as an example of how people come out of despair—albeit with the help of alcohol, her anodyne.
One of the most poignant reactions of an adult to the death of a child is guilt? Everyone in the play asks the question “What could I have done?” for which there is no answer.
And that same sense of bewilderment infuses many conversations. At one point, husband Howie (Robin MacDuffie) says to Becca, “You know, I really don’t know where you want this conversation to go.”
While I miss a stove in the kitchen and the capaciousness of the house referred to in the script, Robert L. Hegeman’s economical set design satisfyingly allows for the necessary playing space, and Jeffrey Scott’s lighting design and the restless music between scenes aptly chronicle time and mood changes.
The play gets off to a strong start, thanks to the crisp interplay between Lane and Stephens. In a fine Playhouse debut, Stephens’ Izzy is a breezy, smart-mouthed young woman who has lived in the shadow of her more sober-sided sister, but she believes — rightly or wrongly — that parenthood will help her grow up. And in a scene with Howie, we see that growth.
Glynn credibly makes Jason an earnest young man to whom something potentially life-stopping has happened, even as life is just beginning for him.
Hayes is alternately funny and touching as a survivor of loss, and the straightforward delivery of her speech in Act II is just right.
MacDuffie’s Howie is a man perplexed, trying on every emotion as it comes to him, but nothing quite fits. MacDuffie is moving throughout, especially in a heartbreaking moment sitting in the living room, watching a video.
Lane’s line readings, physical mannerisms, drab dress and unkempt hair make Becca more a creature than a person, a wounded animal able to respond but not so much to initiate. Lane gives an extraordinary performance, working in the cracks of this character, so when catharsis comes, ever so slightly, she reveals it, even hinting that recovery is possible.
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