Thursday night, after an excellent roast duck dinner at Marseille (I've never been disapponted there) I went up a few blocks to the beautifully renovated Biltmore Theatre to see Rabbit Hole. This is playwright David Lindsay-Abaire's fourth work for the Manhattan Theatre Club, though I haven't seen any of the previous ones.
The main attraction of this play was the pairing of two great actresses, Cynthia Nixon and Tyne Daly. The subject matter was off-putting though: the effect on the parents of the accidental death of their four-year-old son. Despite that, it was a great night of theatre.
The reactions of the parents to their loss were quite different. The mother (Nixon), tried to eliminate the reminders of her child from view, while the father (John Slattery) clung to them. He faithfully attended a support group for parents of children who died. She dropped out of it.
The situation is complicated by the mother's sister (Mary Catherine Garrison), who reveals she's pregnant, and their mother (Daly), who also lost a son--a suicide at age 30. And then there is the teenaged driver (John Gallagher, Jr.), trying to handle the fact he killed someone, even though it was at most only slightly his fault.
Lindsay-Abaire's characters ring true. All of the actors were excellent. The sets were highly imaginative: they were stationed on a large turntable plus a smaller one at one side, that allowed to the audience to see the living room from the kitchen and vice versa. My only quibble was some of the vocabulary used by the grandmother and aunt. They seemed to be from a lower middle class background at most--which the mother had risen out of. Not a lot of education (the aunt said she liked school, but she was never very good at it). Yet occasionally their words seemed above them--"prologue," for instance.
As I said, the acting was great. The mother was the biggest role, onstage almost the entire play, and Nixon was fine. Gallagher managed to portray the awkward high school senior quite convincingly--I was surprised to learn he is approaching his 22nd birthday.
But the real star is the story. Not surprisingly, I've never heard of a play on the subject. The only similar movie to my recollection was Ordinary People. But watching the parents work through their grief, and manage to reach a common point, made for a memorable evening of theatre.
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