Left - Jenny Lovell & Kat Stewart. Cover - Martin Sharpe & Kat Stewart. Photos - Jodie Hutchinson
Red Stitch Actors' Theatre opens its 2007 season with Rabbit Hole by New York author David Lindsay Abaire. The play premiered on Broadway in early 2006 and was nominated for three Drama League Awards and five Tonys, including Best Play of the year. The current production is an Australian premiere.
Rabbit Hole explores the themes of loss, grief and blame within the context of an 'ordinary' American family. Becca and Howie Colbert (Kat Stewart and David Whiteley) have lost their four year old son in a tragic accident and each is struggling to come to terms with Danny's death and to find a way forward that does not deny his short life. Life has stopped for Becca and Howie; they are lost in their grief and their relationship is under stress. Not surprisingly they find it hard to accept intrusions from Becca's sister Izzy (Erin Dewar) and mother Nat (Jenny Lovell), each of whom is feeling Danny's death in her own way and struggling to find the right way of helping the grieving parents. Nat's well meant advice is rejected outright, especially her suggestion that belief in God gives meaning to such events. Izzy struggles with the best way to tell her sister that she is pregnant and Becca and Howie both struggle with wanting to accept that it was all a horrible accident and no one is to blame. Yet gradually they each gain some solace from each other and the strength to go on. Even the young man who was driving the car, Jason Willette (Martin Sharpe) who is desperate to express his regret and to find some way of coping with what he has done, helps in his own way, to guide them forward.
The work is understated and naturalistic in style. A beautiful script, strong performances and a steady directorial hand insure that the whole never descends into melodrama. The accents might be American but they never distract from the family interactions which are universally recognisable. Exchanges between characters are often cut off, unfinished as happens in everyday life, sometimes resulting in poignant silences, at others building to heated exchanges. There are some welcome moments of humour which only serve to reinforce the humanity of these people and reveal them as survivors who will ultimately find a way of moving on.
All of the action takes place within the one set of a living/dining room. Back projection is used effectively to reveal a video of father and son playing together and, on another occasion, to create a sense of Danny's bedroom.
All the performances are excellent revealing subtle developments in each of the characters. I have to admit that I was particularly impressed with the way in which Martin Sharpe captured the gangly, uncertainty of late adolescence in his portrayal of Jason Willette.
Since its inception in 2001, Red Stitch had continued to offer actors, directors, designers and technical crew on-going opportunities to develop and refine their skills, at the same time giving audiences the opportunity of seeing some of the best new plays from around the world. This is yet another must see Red Stitch production.
Red Stitch Actors Theatre
by David Lindsay-Abaire
Venue: Red Stitch Actors Theatre | rear 2 Chapel St, St Kilda East (opp Astor)
Dates: Fri March 9 – Sat April 7
Times: Wed – Sat 8pm, Sun 6.30pm. $15 previews Wed 7 and Thurs 8 March
Duration: approx 120 mins
Bookings: www.redstitch.net (discounted tix) or on 03 9533 8083