Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
What is it that we fear the most? When asked to write about this in a college class, playwright David Lindsay-Abaire drew a blank. But years later, after becoming a father himself and hearing stories of couples coping with the death of children, he knew he’d found his greatest fear.
Rabbit Hole, Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a couple wading through the grieving process after their four-year-old son was accidentally killed, opened Friday at Clio Cast & Crew’s Theatre 57. It is a stirring and emotional, but also uplifting and at times even comical performance.
Becca (Dawn Sabourin) and Howie (Connor Klee) live in a comfortable home outside New York City. The play opens eight months after the death of their son, Danny, yet remnants remain. A stuffed dog on the floor, a dinosaur under the coffee table, not to mention a child’s bedroom visible through a cutaway wall stage left still intact as it was on “that” day. Indeed, Kevin Smithwick’s set, while comfortable and even cozy, also emphasizes the emptiness of material surroundings when life departs.
As the play opens, Becca is carefully folding a child’s clothes from a laundry basket and chatting with her younger, wilder sister Izzy (Pamela Beauchamp). Beauchamp brings a comical and crazy yet loving and sturdy demeanor to this role that prevails throughout.
Sabourin comes across at first as an average suburban mom concerned with her sister’s zany behavior. It is when Becca offers to give the clothes to Izzy who has just announced her unplanned pregnancy that we begin to realize something is awry in this household.
The story of Danny’s death is never told outright. It emerges in conversation as does its impact. Howie’s attempts to relax his wife (and probably himself as well) are met with suspicion and resentment. Klee’s portrayal crafts Howie clearly with all his uncertainty and desire to comfort Becca even as he mirrors his own longing to return life to normal. Striving to not blame each other, they still search for a reason to explain the total senselessness of their loss. For a while they find that outlet in each other.
Enter Nat (Paula Price-Anthony) as Becca’s assertive and often comically outspoken mother. Price-Anthony may bring this character to life for many with her authoritarian, motherly advice. And yet, any attempts to console on Nat’s part are met with resentment and even anger, until months later when Becca finally realizes that her mother may have wisdom to offer.
Finally, there is the arrival of Jason (Noah Beauchamp), the teen who was driving the car that killed Danny. Curiously the meeting between Jason and Becca is a catalyst to begin the healing for them both. It is here that the definition of the title emerges with all its mystical meaning and the hope that it finally brings to Becca.
Although Lindsay-Abaire’s script emphasizes details and the wrenching memories simple moments can bring, his play projects the triumph of the human spirit. In her directing debut at Clio Cast and Crew, Dominique Hinde has guided her troupe with a finesse that allows them to portray these emotions with incredible power and unwavering honesty.
Rabbit Hole continues at Clio Cast & Crew’s Theatre 57, 2220 W Vienna Rd, Clio, MI 48420, today and October 4 & 5 at 7:30 pm and September 29 and October 6 at 2:30 pm. For more information and tickets contact the box office at (810) 687-2588 or online at www.cliocastandcrew.com.