Editor's note: Welcome to the first installment of Playlist's new, ongoing series of local theater reviews. Having spent a lot of time behind the scenes over the years, we decided it was time to spotlight some of what's actually on stage right now in the Twin Cities. Enjoy, engage and feel free to let us know when you think we're way off base.
Theatre in the Round is currently running its 500th main stage production, Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire. No other theater in the Twin Cities has hit the 500 mark, which makes this play a somewhat surprising choice for what would usually be a celebratory situation. The 2007 Pulitzer Prize winning script follows a family coping with the tragic death of their four-year old. Directed by TRP and overall Twin Cities theater veteran David Coral, the production was polished and ripe. It was well paced and flowed from start to finish, notable given its heavy and brooding themes. More than a few tears were shed by members of the audience.
The show did a great job of normalizing the family’s catastrophic situation. It felt like this family could be your neighbors, co-workers or even yourself. The realistic and detailed set fit the unique arena stage like a tree grown around a boulder. The costumes were unflattering but appropriate. Most importantly, the acting was convincing.
Elena Giannetti’s character, the deceased boy’s mother, seemed on the edge of breaking. Her progression from unlikeable and tense during the first act to more compassionate and open in the second, was believable, although the impetus for her change felt somewhat muddled. The actor who played the father, Ron Ravensborg, also gave a grounded and authentic performance, but his character’s development throughout the story was somewhat obscured. Ravensborg was quite subtle with his indications of how and why his character changed, an approach that may have been too faint for the audience to notice. The energy and timing of Linda Sue Anderson, the grandmother, was a welcome addition whenever she was on stage. Rachel Finch, who played the boy’s aunt, gave a performance that was funny, charismatic and full of life. She killed it in the opening scene, and showed the audience this wasn’t going to be all about tears. Everything came together to seem like a real family.
In a unique and stylish choice of by Coral, the scene changes were done by the actors while emotive music played, displaying the life of the house. Families deal with such a tragedy throughout their daily minutia, and the scene changes were a clever, nuanced way to capture that. This added a surreal level of on top of the rest of the play’s realism and was effective as a reflective tool for the audience.
In dealing with people who are trying to find meaning after it has been randomly snatched away, Lindsay-Abaire’s story can resonate with everyone. What or who do you hold onto when climbing out of the rabbit hole? One thing we all share is that we set our own rules and boundaries for the process. Those who want to help us up must decipher these and abide by them. Clawing out is likely to be hurtful to ourselves and those trying to support us. It is also a resistance that if overcome, significantly increases our awareness of our identity and the world around us, as well as the strength to deal with the hardships of life. Maybe that’s why TRP chose this play for their 500th production. Their 61 seasons have surely seen a number of foundation-shaking moments that have shaped it to be a strong organization and an asset to the Twin Cities theater community.