New Castle News

Closer Look

August 16, 2013

New Castle Playhouse cast tackles a dark drama

NEW CASTLE — After its flood damage makeover, the New Castle Playhouse Annex Theater is ready to get on with the show.

The theater — with carpet replacement and upgrades to the structure — will host its first post-flood event today with the premiere of David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Rabbit Hole.”

The show opens a week after originally scheduled, but cast and crew are ready to take the audience on an emotional roller coaster ride through one family’s tragedy and their battle to overcome it.

“Rabbit Hole” was the winner of 2007 Pulitzer Prize for drama. It also was nominated for the Tony for best play. It has become a favorite of community theaters because of its strong, if sometimes dark, script and challenging and emotional characterizations required to bring the roles to life.

The Playhouse has landed a cast quite capable of pulling off this difficult production. One of those performers is James McClellan.

McClellan is one of the region’s most well-known and diversely talented actors, performing at theaters around the Youngstown and Warren area for nearly three decades. Among the significant roles he has played are leads in “Gypsy,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and the one-man show “I Am My Own Wife,” as well as a couple of runs as Joseph in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.”

He has a 20-year relationship with Easy Street Productions, a professional theater company in Youngstown. He also has had limited engagements singing and performing in New York City and expects to return for another.

“Rabbit Hole” marks McClellan’s Playhouse debut.

“It’s quite fun being new here,” he said. “I feel a challenge to prove myself to a theater, an audience I’ve never performed for. Everyone has been great to me.”

The Playhouse website provides this synopsis of the show: “The Rabbit Hole is the heartbreaking story of Becca and Howie, a couple trying to recover from the accidental death of their four-year-old son, Danny, eight months earlier ...  Becca’s mother, Nat, and her younger sister, Izzy, try in their own ways to comfort the family. When Izzy announces that she is pregnant, Becca and Howie must come to terms with the new life in the family while dealing with their grief.”

McClellan calls the play “a study in grief and how one couple handles it. We show the struggle with loss and grief for both of them. They are grieving on different paths and different stages of grief.”

Howie, the character played by McClellan, is ready for the pre-child relationship to pick up again, McClellan continued. He doesn’t want to forget about his son, but he wants his marriage back and stable, and Becca is not there yet.

“She is just not ready,” he said. “Howie has to be patient. I think it becomes about saving their marriage, which is in jeopardy because of their ways of coping.”

The story, McClellan noted, is not completely without hope or humor.

“Somewhere within everyone’s grieving experience, we find humor if for no other reason but to save ourselves,” he said.

“ ‘Rabbit Hole’ finds that humor. I think the audience will fall into this story only to find that there is hope in even the worst of circumstances.”

If you’re going ...

•The New Castle Playhouse will present the drama “Rabbit Hole” Friday, Saturday, Sunday; Aug. 23, 24, 25, 30 and 31; and Sept. 1 in the Annex Theatre.

•Friday and Saturday showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Sunday performances start at 2 p.m.

•For ticket information, call (724) 654-3437.


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