Coming from Broadway, David Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole opens the 35th season of Alberta Theatre Projects. The Broadway version was directed by Daniel Sullivan with Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon and Judging Amy’s Tyne Daley among the cast. Although the cast a little closer to home doesn’t have the same household names as the Broadway production, they did a phenomenal job bringing the heartfelt story to the Martha Cohen Theatre. ATP Artistic Director Bob White proudly presents the play to audiences sure to shed a few tears during the breathtaking performance, and director Glenda Stirling is certainly one of the main causes behind those wet Kleenexes.
Taking place eight months after the accidental death of their four-year-old son Danny, the play demonstrates how Becca (Annette Loiselle) and Howie (Curt McKinstry) struggle to carry on with their lives. Becca and Howie aren’t the only the ones drastically affected by the tragedy as Becca’s mother, Nat (Nicola Lipman) and sister, Izzy (Vanessa Holmes) walk on egg shells to avoid inflicting further misery on the couple while baring the grief as well. The latter characters also face issues in their own lives that are still directly impacted by the loss. Izzy is faced with a new burden in her life while Nat is still mourning the loss of her own son.
The driver in the fatal accident, Jason (Jon Johnson) is left to cope with a guilty conscience.
At the beginning of Rabbit Hole, the audience attempts to piece together Izzy and Becca’s causal conversation in the kitchen. Holmes seems nervous as Izzy initially, however, by the end of the scene she is the character audiences learn to love. Loiselle and McKinstry’s performances are astonishing, as their characters are convincing enough to induce occasional sniffs among the audience during the emotive scenes. Lipman steals the show with her witticisms and hysterical natural charisma. Johnson, a recent Mount Royal College graduate, plays the part of the awkward teenager almost a little too well, but nevertheless portrays the necessary emotions and actions to a tee.
The cast brings the script to life extraordinarily well, however, the script itself brilliantly expresses the heartbreak, joys, anger and humor that we constantly face everyday in our lives. The sincerity of the play is accentuated with the use of common slang and profanity, the honesty after a few drinks and a desire for sexual release.
Let’s not forget what’s behind the cast as well. Narda McCarroll did a marvelous job in making the set as the audience feels right at home. The minute details allow for the cast to truly convince the audience they are at home. The most astounding part of McCarroll’s set is the staircase leading to a cutaway portion, which was Danny’s bedroom. The Rabbit Hole production team truly deserves of a round of applause.