Sunday, November 17, 2013

Down the Rabbit Hole

by Jenni Morin

In an intimate setting, The Rose Theatre Company stages Rabbit Hole, an up-close-and-personal look at grief, playing through Nov. 30. David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2007 Pulitzer Prize winning drama peers into the lives of Howie and Becca Corbett eight months after losing their 4-year-old son, Danny, in a tragic accident.

Jessie Rose as Becca and Jane Bull as Nat in Rabbit Hole.
Rabbit Hole is as much about guilt as it is about grief as the family tries to find a new balance to counteract the loss of a child. Becca’s sister finds herself pregnant less than a year after Danny’s death, while their friends Rick and Debbie, who have a daughter the age of Danny, find it hard to console the couple. Jason Willette, the teenager who hit and killed Danny, carries his guilt with him as he tries to justify the tragedy to himself and the Corbetts. Event Becca’s mother, Nat, feels a bit of guilt at not being able to comfort her daughter and help her get over her grief that she admits will never really go away. At the height of it all is Howie and Becca’s guilt over not being able to prevent it. Herein lies the opportunity for commentary on the state of preventable child deaths.

While the actors had their moments, only a few of them aligned with the moments in the script. There were several missed opportunities throughout the action to capitalize on subtext. Becca is a bit uptight, which is what makes her steady unraveling so captivating. Jessie Rose took a different approach playing Becca that made her seem much more unstable, taking to heart the psychological effects her family fears. Jon Smith played opposite Rose as Howie on the brink of several emotions, which allowed him to create a well-structured arc throughout the action. Jenny Fisher as Becca’s sister, Izzy, gives a decent performance while Jane Bull as Nat fully takes advantage of some gem one-liners and a great scene with Becca where Nat is able to connect with her daughter. Rocky Bronco portrayed Jason Willette in his character’s introductory scene as almost too young, but provoked the empathy he needed. In his later scene, he comes off more nerdy and socially awkward than what makes sense in the script. As a whole, the ensemble felt genuine, but held back, impeding their ability to command the stage.

The production quality is low with most of the design elements more utilitarian than enhancing. The set felt like a hodgepodge of required properties, giving an inaccurate reflection of the Corbett’s home. While the music chosen for the scene changes was fitting, it lost most of its appeal when repeated for each interlude. The technical aspects lacked direction and disrupted the momentum the actors worked to achieve.

Beyond the emotions on the surface, the play also touches on famed literature, quantum physics, Greek mythology and pop culture history. Abaire expertly weaves each of these themes into the play as a way for the characters to cope with their loss and find a semblance of understanding and hope that will allow them to carry on. Rabbit Hole is a fantastic work of theatre literature that all audiences should experience. While this production may not quite do it justice, it’s still a respectable rendition of this eloquent yet simple story.

Rabbit Hole will run at The Rose Theatre Co. through November 30, 2013 with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

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