Review: "Rabbit Hole" at The NuBox

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  • Niki Hatzidis - Contributing Critic, New York City

Nuance Theatere Co has teamed up with LungTree Productions to produce a very intimate performance of David Lindsay- Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize winning drama Rabbit Hole in Hell’s Kitchen.  The play follows Becca and Howie Corbett’s grief and healing after the tragic, accidental death of their four year old son.  This “close-up theater” version of the play, a term coined by it’s director John DeSotelle, allows the audience to feel as if they are sitting in the Corbett’s living room with them while they navigate a life in which their son is painfully absent.

The company accomplishes the effect of having the audience act as a literal fourth wall with the very clever and detailed scenic design of Matt Imhoff.  It is not often that the feeling of walking into someone’s house can be achieved in a tight, black box theater, but the director and his production staff accomplish just that.  The short distance to the action assists in the audience sensing every nuance in the text and complex emotions of bereavement, anger, contentment and hopefulness.   

A play that predominantly circles around the concepts of loss and grief can sometimes feel arduous and tedious for the audience; without the understanding that tears can lead to laughter, an auditor can end up wallowing in gloom without much solace.  The cast expertly maneuvers through the complex emotions that follow a tragedy so that the audience is allowed a respite. Laughter is welcomed and earned, which then leads to inevitable yearning and devastation.  We are able to follow it all every step of the way.

Maggie Alexander (Becca) and Michael Filisky (Howie) artfully and honestly portray a couple trying to hold their lives together, how they try to move on, and also attempt to keep everything still.  With the statistics against couples staying together after the loss of a child, Alexander and Filisky’s chemistry and affection has us rooting for them to beat the odds.  

Rachael Worthington expertly exemplified the role of comedic breath with her cool, calm and collected depiction of Izzy.  Brendon Raines, who played Jason, was quite relatable as the guileless teenager about to embark on the world with the weight of death on his hands.  Last but not at all least, the striking Nancy Wolfe (Nat) sharply explored the grit and truthful notion of how grief is split up and unfairly measured, and its long lasting effects that weigh on the bereaved.  

The cast in all achieves in telling a story of the cycle of grief into new beginnings, blame, ego, and family dynamics, with great sensitivity, care and precision.  In such an intimate setting the audience is gifted with a journey that touches on nearly all the fundamental yearning of loss, gain, and how we humans mourn.  It is what theater goers thrive for; a chance to feel, empathize and contemplate the limits of a person facing unfair circumstances. Rabbit Hole will be performing at The Nubox through June 18th.