- Rabbit Hole
- Written by David Lindsay-Abaire
- Directed by Mitchell Hébert
- Produced by Olney Theater
- Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson
In this metro-area premiere, a suburban couple that seems to have all the creature comforts of home shows the frayed edges of trying to cope with a tragic loss. Filled with sincerity, poignant humor and hints of the devastating pain buried just beneath the surface, the play reflects the interior hurt and healing of an entire family trying to find its footing. The brilliance shines brightly in Act I setting up the characters, making fun of their quirks and foibles. The heavy lifting healing comes in Act 2 where the mother is visited by the young person responsible for the tragic accident and tries to come to terms with everything, including the utter senselessness of how and why it happened. Needless to say, the opening scene is an easier and fresher sell.
The play opens with the playful banter between two sisters, starting very lighthearted and upbeat as the younger one, winningly played by Megan Anderson, lets on that she’s the family slacker cut-up, a French fry away from being a ne’re do well, who finally admits to having been in a bar fight the night before. Her sister Becca, a tightly wound Deborah Hazlett, listens attentively, but from the beginning, there is an undertow of quiet desperation surrounding her, so though she smiles sweetly at her sister’s antics and laughs at the jokes, her heart is not part of the present but still buried in her grieving past.
By the time their mother enters the scene, with her own kooky observations about the death of JFK, Jr and other notables, the story has revealed that a baby brother, Danny, died eight months prior, and they are all trying to get on with their lives, fixing meals, packing lunches, folding clothes. But it’s obvious that things are not settling well with Becca no matter how much she flashes a distracted smile looking more like a painful grimace, or how accommodating she tries to be to others. When her husband (Paul Morella) makes innocent advances of endearment and affection, she deflects him gently at first and then when he playfully persists, she stridently rebuffs him. More of the back-story then bubbles up to the surface during that heated interchange, and while the family chatter at one point seemed to reflect a cool veneer of normality, that image is shattered to bits as more of the painful story is revealed, culminating in a chilling scene where Howie plays a family video of their son at play. Act I is truly Pulitzer Prize caliber material and carries a talky, resolution-seeking Act II along for the ride.
In true Olney fashion, the set design by Marie-Noelle Daigneault is boundlessly beautiful–the wood surfaces are so polished they glow–and also framed touchingly with hanging vines depicting a barren future, hinting at potential for lush green foliage, but not likely. When the set revolves quietly to reveal Danny’s bright and colorfully decorated room, the contrast is sudden and unnerving. It was almost too much to take it all in, like you didn’t need a sophisticated wheel-bearing revolving set to share such an intimate quiet moment.
Lindsay-Abaire’s plays have been described as “peopled with outsiders in search of clarity. Walking a line between grave reality and joyous lunacy, the world of his plays is often dark, funny, blithe, enigmatic, hopeful, ironic, and somewhat cock-eyed.” With Rabbit Hole, Lindsay-Abaire reaches a personal best penetrating to the core of hurt and healing, showing that even the most devastating loss of the past can, with time, make way for a hopeful tomorrow.
- Running Time: 2:00 hours
- When: Thru August 31. Wednesday – Saturday at 8, Saturday and Sunday matinee at 2, Sunday evening show at 7:30pm.
- Where: Olney Theater, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
- Tickets: $43. Call 301.924.4485 or consult the website
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