What happens when a tragic accident leaves a gaping hole in a family’s lives? Once the initial shock and heartbreak have passed, how do you carry on and deal with the grief and loss?
That’s the subject matter of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole, now playing at Venice Theatre’s Stage II. This is domestic drama (with some fitting flashes of humor) taking place over the kitchen table, on the living room sofa, and in the bedroom of a young child now gone forever; but it plays out mostly in drips of the seemingly mundane, as clothes are folded, birthdays celebrated, homemade bakery goods consumed. The grief is always hovering at the edges, just waiting to pop up at the right–or maybe wrong–moment.
The family in question here is a middle-class couple, Becca (Amity Hoffman) and Howie (Jeremy Stone), who lost their four-year-old son eight months before the opening scene in one of those blink-of-an-eye moments. Becca copes by going about her ordinary routine and trying to gradually remove the constant reminders of Danny that are around the house; Howie finds some comfort in watching an old video of the boy and his dog. And Becca’s usually irresponsible sister, Izzy (Geena M. Ravella), and her mother (Rebecca Holahan), who’s suffered from her own life-changing loss, try to help while tiptoeing around Becca’s carefully maintained facade.
Not a great deal happens in Lindsay-Abaire’s play, in terms of action. But quiet, subtle moments reflect the changes that must take place in order to move forward, as each individual tries to come to terms with what happened in his or her own way. And no resolution can come, it seems, until a teen-age boy (Patrick Mounce) enters the situation with a problem of his own. That’s the moment when the meaning of the play’s title (relating to rabbit holes through which parallel universes can be glimpsed) becomes clear to us, through Becca’s own realizations.
The entire cast, under the understanding and nuanced direction of Candace Artim, is absolutely believable in their respective roles and in their interactions with one another. It’s nice to see the strength of their performances in roles that demand some deep emotional work on their parts.While all deserve praise, I single out Hoffman as Becca only because she is the center around which everything unfolds, and Hoffman is always right on the money in terms of her reactions. No one overdoes anything here, and that makes these people that much more real and affecting to us.
One very minor carp about the production: The set, consisting of the aforementioned kitchen, bedroom and living room area, doesn’t seem up to the living standards of a New York suburban couple like Becca and Howie. That may have been a budget issue. But in the overall success of Rabbit Hole, that certainly won’t keep audiences from being engaged and touched.
Rabbit Hole continues through Nov. 7; for tickets call 488-1115 or go to venicestage.com.