'Rabbit Hole' is touching drama about tragedy, grief and closure
David Lindsay-Abaire's "Rabbit Hole," at TheatreWorks in New Milford, is a play about tragedy, grief and closure. It's a small, slice-of-life, "kitchen sink" drama that scores its points as much by what is unsaid -- as is.
Becca (Jackie Decho-Holm) and her husband Howie (Kevin Sosbe) are internally devastated by the death of their 4-year old son, Danny, killed when he chased his dog into the path of an oncoming car. On the surface, though, they and other close family members, Nat (Sonnie Osborne), who is Becca's outspoken mother, and Izzy (Heather Nicolson), her insecure sister, maintain a gingerly found closure. Heartbreak remains just below the surface for them all.
With everyone walking on cat's paws and talking circuitously, Danny's memory haunts the well appointed Larchmont home where he lived. Eric D. Diaz's excellent scenic design neatly captures the balance of high tech shine and hominess for which suburbanites strive.
The playwright, known for his absurdist comedies about people at loggerheads with life and logic, has written a simple story about loss.
In a frozen emotional state, Becca and Howie have not exorcised the guilt they feel about Danny's death -- though it was clearly an accident. Their feelings are rubbed raw anew when Jason (Rob Onorato), the teen-age boy who drove the deadly car, attempts to talk to them and ease his own anguish. Becca is receptive but Howie remains irrationally hostile.
There's very little more in the way of conflict other than a subplot about Izzy's out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
Most of the dialog is give-and-take family gab, jokes, and minor arguments that help direct attention away from the sorrow.
The most painful scene is one in which Howie breaks down and weeps over what he perceives to be the disappearance of his son's existence. If you didn't think watching a grown man cry could touch you, Sosbe will have you think again.
The most beautifully written -- and played - scene, is when Jason is allowed to sit down and talk to Becca about what he remembers about the accident. Measuring words out carefully, both the mother and the boy, find a measure of solace in facing the truth together.
This could give the appearance of a tearful soap opera, but the playwright keeps his characters from overplaying their emotions.
Decho-Holm and Sosbe give touching, and, for the most part, restrained performances, leaving Osborne and Nicolson to inject the play with its few moments of humor and liveliness.
In the role of the anguished boy, Rob Onorato gives a fine, controlled performance that beats with confusion, innocence and troubling guilt.
"Rabbit Hole" is not a great play, just an intelligent one, intelligently staged. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, an award, however, notorious for being given to less than brilliant works.
The play is divided into eight scenes, each of which is more a snapshot of the family coping than a run up to a big emotional finish. In the end, life simply goes on -- which is what all of us sadly learn.
Susan Pettibone is the sensitive director of the TheatreWorks production and she keeps her staging and her cast's performances faithful to the playwright's theme of acceptance in the face of life's darkest moments. "Rabbit Hole" should leave you with a renewed appreciation for the expression "carpe diem."