Jump Down the Rabbit Hole at The Albany Barn, It’s Worth the Trip
Grief. No two people deal with or respond to it in the same manner. Much like fingerprints, everyone is different. Nowhere is this more evident than in David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Rabbit Hole, currently on stage for a very limited run at Albany Barn under the auspices of Bunbury Players. Rabbit Hole is a play about the ultimate tragedy, the death of a child, and how the people directly affected deal with it. Becca and her husband Howie each have diametrically opposed mechanisms for dealing with the death of their son; Becca’s sister Izzy and their mother Nat also play into the mix.
The show is at once sad and emotionally gripping, with equal parts comedy and laughter.
Director Michael Nichols-Pate, the company’s Executive Director, winds his cast beautifully through the maze of emotions. He never allows the drama to stoop to soap opera, nor does he ever allow the comedy to elevate to slapstick. He walks his cast on a wonderful tightrope and, with that walk, takes the audience along on an emotional roller coaster. His direction is enhanced by an incredibly talented cast able to breathe life into the beautifully multi-faceted characters that Lindsay-Abaire created.
Helen Annely is Becca, the mother through whose lens we see the majority of the production. She is a broken woman attempting to deal with the unthinkable, and she performs it flawlessly. Jonathan Pate is Howie, played with equal amounts of frustration, ennui, sorrow, and pain and a burning desire to attempt to move on but too mired in the trauma he has experienced, which is equally outstanding. Desiree Chappelle is Becca’s misunderstood sister, thrust amid all the drama, fearful of how her moving on will affect her sister, whom she truly loves. Chappelle offers a snarky, irreverent, funny characterization that is refreshing to see.
Capital Region stage veteran Carol Charniga is Nat, mother to Becca and Izzy. Charniga’s character also holds a secret of trauma and pain of her own that is revealed throughout the play. She offers the most optimistic viewpoint and the greatest sense of sympathy. It is her moment as the inebriated mother who is a scene stealer. Her sense of comic timing is masterful.
Dominic Tillou is Jason, the final character we meet. He plays his part with an endearing sensitivity and awkwardness. To reveal much more about his character would do the playgoer a disservice.
Artistic Director Garrett D. West’s scenic design and Lawrence Nichols’ costumes help to bring this engrossing production to life.
Bunbury Players, formed during COVID to bring theater to the masses via Zoom, has been able to branch out to live audiences as we return to a new normal. It is the company’s mission to present free theatre to the public. I would suggest that, if you are able, feel free to contribute to their cause. They have a suggested $20 per ticket donation, but no one will be turned away for giving less or nothing at all. Regrettably, this production will only be around through the weekend at The Albany Barn. It will move you in many ways. If at all possible, make the time to go down the Rabbit Hole. You’ll be very glad you did—email [email protected] for more information.