Show #30 saw me return to Ross Valley Players, my former neighborhood theatre and a longtime stalwart of the North Bay theatre community. The company claims to be the oldest continually operating theatre west of the Mississippi River. They have a dedicated and consistent output of productions, spanning the range from classics to crowd pleasers to more offbeat dramas. This production falls somewhere in between the dramatic and crowd pleasing, where RABBIT HOLE has become a familiar title. The publicity for this show strikes the right note, acknowledging the film and Pulitzer Prize, but not dwelling on it. If they did, there would be large shoes to fill.
It was appealing to see this drama taken back to reality after the high-voltage Hollywood adaptation from this past holiday season. Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart and Dianne Wiest had the leading roles in that production. Here at RVP, the main pair was refreshingly local and backed up by equally venerable talent. As is natural with the first preview, the production is still finding its footing, especially now transitioning to incorporating the role of the audience. A few scenes seemed to be in the process of finding their pacing, as I’m sure the humor and pathos balancing act will also adjust.
I took notice of technical elements in this show more than I have in previous visits to RVP. The costume choices seemed especially splashy and thoughtfully chosen. Lighting was literally spot on in points and did a considerate job of delineating specific areas of the stage. Sound transitions were appropriately somber yet melodious. That same sound became muffled by frequent audience applause after each scene, which is an occasional situation based on the crowd that I have never been able to understand. Direction was thoughtful, with just enough emphasis placed on the emotionality of the story without it becoming overly maudlin. As I overheard one audience member say at the end, “I’m glad they had humor“. Local actress Floriana Alessandria provided most of the comic touches as the lead character’s sister.
This piece is very much a slice of life play. Its themes of loss and the process of understanding life show the reasons why it has been admired by many audiences since its premiere in 2006.