Rabbit Hole: A Family Tries to Cope with the Pain of Loss

Beth Kellermann as Becca in Rabbit Hole at Ross Valley Players

Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire, which just opened at Ross Valley Players, is a 2006 Broadway smash hit which won the Pulitzer Prize and was nominated the Best Play for the Theatre Guild's Tony Awards.  

David Lindsay-Abaire's Rabbit Hole depicts a family in crisis caused by a heartbreakingly random accident and how these five people deal with the aftermath of this very personal tragedy.  Each character is enveloped in a private grieving process that little-by-little challenges the family bonds that tie them together.  Lindsay-Abaire offers no easy answers, no profound discoveries which enable its characters to move triumphantly beyond their private mourning.  But, in its honest candor and complete lack of sentimentality, Rabbit Hole gives us a glimpse into a family very much like our own, coping with loss as any family might with anger and hope, despair and humor, and ultimately profound humanity.  

Eight months after the accidental death of their four year old son Danny, Becca (Beth Kellermann) and Howie (Gregg LeBlanc) are struggling to return to their daily lives when Becca's younger and perpetually troubled sister, Izzy (Floriana Alessandria) announces she is pregnant.  The couple's differing styles of grieving are thrown into sharp contrast as Becca's desire to escape the constant reminders of her son clash with Howie's attempts to hang on to the details of their little boy's past.  

Becca, as played by Beth Kellermann, at first, is difficult to like.  She's distant from her husband, judgmental of her sister and rude to her mother.  One trait that helps to balance her difficult side is her sense of humor.  Though she occasionally employs it to biting effect, Becca manages to find both irony and humor in the circumstances of her lot.  She is not mean. She is just isolated.  She is tough and uncompromising, she cannot tolerate insincerity or impracticality.   

Howie played by Gregg LeBlanc is Becca's husband--a patient man who specializes in pretending everything is fine.  Izzy (Floriana Alessandria) is Becca's younger sister.  Ms. Alessandria plays her as a perennial party girl who never grew up.  Izzy is still trying to find herself. She and her mother are the only two characters who use a New York accent.  Her mother Nat (Maureen O'Donoghue) is the opinionated alcoholic with a knack for sticking her foot in her mouth telling parables about the Kennedy curse.  Liam Hughes gives a sensitive performance as Jason, the awkward seventeen year old boy who drove the car that accidentally killed Danny.  

Maryann Rogers directs Rabbit Hole with a recognition that we are not so different from each other, as she allows us to live closely with Howie, Becca, Nat, Izzy and Jason to see how they deal with their feelings and the feelings of those around them.  By doing so, we connect with a universal human experience as Maryanne Rogers creates a unified vision of the play.  She is ably aided by Ken Rowland's set which realistically depicts three rooms in Becca's and Howie's house.  The restricted quarters add an air of claustrophobia to the play. Both the set and Ellen Brook's lighting design are softly infused with an aura of fractured solidity.  Billie Cox's mellow sound design enhances Rabbit Hole's shifting moods and Michael A. Berg's costumes are just right for each character.  Alternately sad and funny, Rabbit Hole is a deeply human look at one family's attempt to come to terms with the impossible and emerge stronger than before.  

Rabbit Hole plays through June 17 at Ross Valley Players Barn Theatre, Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross.  Thursday performances are at 7:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. For reservations, call 415-456-9555 or go online at www.rossvalleyplayers.com.

Coming up next at Ross Valley Players is Table Manners by Alan Ayckbourn and directed by Robert Wilson, July 15-August 14, 2011.

Flora Lynn Isaacson