Andy Halliday’s newest and deeply personal play seems at first a cliché – a young man searching for himself – however as the play moves forward it is clear that this narrative isn’t part of the mainstream. The story brings to light a journey that is difficult to express.
The action of the play centers on Jack Harris (Tyler Jones), a young gay man making the best of life in New York City. As he searches for his biological mother, he strikes up a toxic relationship with Timothy (Quinn Coughlin) and cocaine. Early on in the play, Jack receives information that his half-brother, Bradford Little (Andrew Glaszek) is also looking for him. They arrange a reunion with Angela Little (Laralu Smith) and they begin to build a relationship. Helen Harris (Laralu Smith), Jack’s adopted mother, is not particularly thrilled about this reunion. An older showman, Robert Maltin (Peter Gregus), expresses romantic interest in Jack and is ultimately his saving grace.
The primary weakness of the show is the pace. A few scenes move far too slowly, and yet there are a few “cocaine induced” moments in which the actors speak quickly and with little articulation. While those moments could use some scripted or staged adjustments, the production overall is intriguing.
Dan Daly’s scenic design feels like a shiny, circular empty club, and its simplicity helps to create various locations. The sound design by Jacob Subotnick is seamless and timed to perfection. Director G.R. Johnson fills the empty space with creative and natural movement. The lighting and directional choices made in regards to nudity and the rape scene are intelligent. Seeing the transitions between scenes feels important. I also like that we often see who is coming to the door before the characters do – it creates anticipation.
Tyler Jones carries the piece with his excellent physicality and effusive charm. He embodies the attributes that are assigned to Jack by other characters and he leans into Jack’s subtle and dramatic changes effectively. Peter Gregus graces the stage so naturally that hanging on his every movement and word seems the obvious thing to do. Showing us two very different kinds of mothers, Laralu Smith is both gentle and hard. In my opinion, Timothy is the most challenging type of character to embody, and I must applaud Quinn Coughlin for being committed and exceptional in his role.
While some edits and some tightening up would benefit the production, Up the Rabbit Hole is powerful and moving.
Up the Rabbit Hole: Windowpane Theatre Company with Theater for the New City, 155 1st Ave. Closes October 15.