By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
A father wants his adult children to become their best selves before moving away from them forever in Ray Werner’s world premiere play, “Run the Rabbit Path.”
Pop (James FitzGerald) sits in the kitchen as noodles dry on the table before him. His daughter, Patty (Karen Baum), stirs a vat of chicken noodle soup.
She’s not really ignoring him, because he’s not really there. Pop died the day before, a few feet away from where he sits in the kitchen, waiting.
As her father’s caretaker, the last few months of Patty’s life have been a blessing and a burden. She plans the funeral as her family rolls in.
Patty’s brothers Charlie (Reed Allen Worth) and Tommy (Tony Bingham) make their way home.
They bring little physical luggage (Charlie carries his guitar, and Tommy comes only with his cell phone in hand), but they bring heaping piles of emotional baggage. Charlie is sort of adrift, and Tommy is harboring a dark secret.
None of them can see or hear Pop. Sometimes the ghost makes suggestions that nudges them along in the right direction. They don’t see him or hear him, but they do feel his presence.
As in all stories, a secret will out. This particular skeleton in the cupboard has the potential to irrevocably change the lives of all the siblings forever.
Alan Stanford gathered four exceptional actors for the play, and each one of them elevates the work.
Baum is magnificent as the tough but tired older sister. She has a daunting task in this production. She has to be stubborn but sweet, cranky but conciliatory, frazzled but firm. It’s a high wire act, and she’s a flying Wallenda.
Bingham’s character Tommy has a lot of work to do. Tommy isn’t very likable. On paper, he comes off as smarmy business dude, but Bingham imbues him with a certain charm.
Worth is newer to the PICT stage. He performs perfectly alongside some of Pittsburgh’s best actors.
FitzGerald’s character is unheard and unseen. It’s a tough spot. It’s as if two shows are happening simultaneously. A family drama with a one man show hanging out on the same stage. FitzGerald pulls it off with aplomb.
“Run the Rabbit Path” is a world premiere and Werner has some kinks to work out if he plans on taking the show elsewhere. Even at 90 minutes, it feels a little long. There is no central hero or central villain, just four people coping with life and death. It’s a familiar subject and will touch each person differently. It’s especially moving if you’ve ever lost a parent.
It’s “This is Us” meets “Topper” with a little “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” thrown in. It’s a serious drama and has very few laughs. There is, however, some lovely poetry woven in.
“Run the Rabbit Path” has a sweet, poignant ending, but it takes a little too long to get there.
PICT Classic Theatre’s “Run the Rabbit Path” runs through February 16th at WQED’s Fred Rogers Studio, 4802 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA. For more information, click here.