Well, Gravity’s Rainbow is still dominating my life but with less than two hundred pages left, there is a distinct feeling of being almost ready to talk about it. In the meantime, however, there have been a few pieces here and there I’ve had to read. I’ve been pretty bad about discussing plays I’ve read for Contemporary – but for the most part, I’ve been reading them at a skim-pace an hour before class… and that just doesn’t feel like it should count. So, as a result, I haven’t blogged about Mamet or Fornes or Adrienne Kennedy (though she might get an entry when I read the rest of that collection). However, the Dramatics Society (of which I am a senior executive board member) is starting to examine plays for the upcoming 2010-2011 season and so I’ve found myself with a little time to do some light theatrical reading. And don’t worry, nothing here about the proposals or directors – this is all about the plays themselves, objectively. Like a book review – OH MY GOD is this a book review blog?
First up is David Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole. Now, first, a confession: I’ve never read this play before. It is one of the most popular pieces of theater of the last decade and everyone seems to know it and love it. And I now understand why. But I’ve never gotten round to reading it previously and so I just wanted to clear the air about that.
The original cast had one of my favorite actors, John Slattery, and having read his name in the opening “original cast” writeup, I have to say that he was Howie for me. In my mind, as I read, I just couldn’t help but imagine him. Sure, he looked a bit Roger Sterling and may have smoked where he didn’t smoke in the play at all… but that’s irrelevant. I’m not sure how I imagined everyone else… I suppose Cynthia Nixon is a pretty close ringer for the Becca I imagined. Anyway, not important.
The play itself is a pretty brutal one, dealing with a couple who recently lost their four year old son in an accident. The mother and father are the main characters and then there’s the mother’s mother and the mother’s sister. Set up for a family drama if I’ve ever seen one. Plus, the young kid who caused the accident shows up for a few scenes as well, adding a little tension into the mix. I don’t mean to seem flip but its just that there was something a little too predictable about the setup. Like does the sister have to be pregnant? I guess that adds to the tension but it just didn’t quite sit right… and the kid writing the parallel universe story and there’s this almost-throwaway line from Becca about wondering if it had something to do with the kid’s missing/dead father… Stuff like that felt a little unnecessary. A little too-much.
Still, it was a powerful play. The suburban home setting made me think not of New England, actually, but of where my cousins live in Virginia. Very American modern suburbia. Or like Little Children except with a spiffier and newer development of houses. The author’s note at the end says that the play shouldn’t feel “glazed-over” and that’s my problem with it – it does, to me, feel a bit glazed over. There are problems and no real resolutions and everyone feels very human… but I just wish there was a bit less polish. Part of that may have been the shiny set I imagined, etc, but I think part of it had to do with everyone’s dialogue, too. Funny at times, definitely smart, but also just a liiiiittle forced at moments. MOMENTS. I don’t know how to explain it beyond that.
Rating: 4 out of 5. A very good play, one I’d definitely like to see done – but only with a top notch cast. The emotions in this play are definitely strong ones that need to be kept in a serious ‘order’ or the whole thing goes off the rails. Was it as amazing as everyone made it out to be? Not quite – I think maybe the hype was too much, I don’t know. It was no August: Osage County or anything like that but I think it still deserves the acclaim it has received.