Thursday, January 17, 2008

Rabbit Hole is darker and deeper than advertised

Rabbit Hole
Manbites Dog Theater
After great pain, a formal feeling

Through Dec. 22

(Left to right) Marcia Edmundson, Derrick Ivey and Katja Hill in Rabbit Hole
Photo by Alan Dehmer
We can understand why Rabbit Hole won this year's Pulitzer Prize for drama. Much like the Orphean myth alluded to in one of its closing sequences, the play follows a married couple, Becca and Howie, through the emotional underworld of grief, some eight months after the accidental death of their small child, Danny.

The veritas of their icy, brittle exchanges, with mooky or boorish relatives and each other, convincingly conveys the formal feeling that Emily Dickinson once wrote of as coming after death; a dynamic that artistic director Jeff Storer fully explores in this Manbites Dog Theater production with noted actors Katja Hill and Derrick Ivey. All in all, these qualities make this a show worthy of superlatives—but one also requiring a consumers' advisory as well along the way.

By now, regional theater-goers have come to associate playwright David Lindsay-Abaire with a series of screwball comedies, largely predicated on medical quirks or psychological disabilities. In Manbites Dog's rewarding 2001 production of Fuddy Meers, the playwright found improbably appealing slapstick in characters with aphasia and psychogenic amnesia while, a couple of years after, Actors Comedy Lab's Wonder of the World hinged on an outlandish sexual dysfunction or two. Though Kimberly Akimbo has not been produced locally, its world premiere during the 2000 National Critics Institute completely disarmed an audience of hard-nosed theater insiders as it explored the dysfunctions of a family dealing with a daughter with progeria, the accelerated aging disease. Need we note that none of these situations provides the most easily minable terrain for comedy?

Milky Way Liberation Front

After receiving strong word of mouth at this year’s Pusan International Film Festival, Seong-ho Yoon’s “Milky Way Liberation Front” opened in theatres on November 29, 2007 in South Korea. The movie offers a unique premise of a filmmaker suffering from writer’s block, but having a vague idea for a story revolving around a man afflicted with aphasia. In a ironic twist of fate, the filmmaker in the movie travels to the Pusan International Film Festival, where the actual movie had its world premiere. The movie was shot entirely in HD and features many unconventional moments (actors laughing over their lines, etc). Looks promising indeed.
Program Note from Pusan International Film Festival : Director Yoon Seongho has been representing a new style and ideas of the digital generation through many digital shorts. The lead character Young-jae, who resembles the director, hopes to become a movie director. However, he breaks up with his girlfriend Eun-ha, so the script doesn’t progress, and the fund situation isn’t too bright. On top of all these obstacles, he suffers from aphasia. Fortunately, his ventriloquist actor helps him in a crisis, but even so the situation turns for the worse and gets out of control. Director Yoon Seongho has often mixed love affairs with the allegory of contemporary society in his previous films. This film also exhibits the same structure and adds authentic humor and dialogue in each scene. His unique talent for light-hearted humor makes us look forward to his future works.