Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire

Dates and Venue 13 March – 13 April 2008 @ 8pm | Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage

Director Rachel Ditor Sets David Roberts Lighting Marsha Sibthorpe Sound Patrick Pennefather Costumes Angela Bright Stage Management Caryn Fehr, Rachel Bland

Reviewer Erin Jane

One can only assume that playwright David Lindsay-Abaire used the reference to Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole to name his play because of its significance to an event that triggers an unexpected or bizarre situation. The situation is a grieving couple, coping with their only child's accidental death.

I would agree that Rabbit Hole is what Ben Brantley of the New York Times called a "kitchen sink drama," where the audience is privy to a depiction of family life that is both realistic and engaging. Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole is undoubtedly well-written - clever and witty at times, and organically emotional, too. Though I felt it sometimes played out like a situational comedy, but more like the special episode where something “serious” happens to the characters, such as the episode of Growing Pains where a depressed friend tries to commit suicide.

Likeness to television "dramadies" aside, I thought the Arts Club Theatre’s production of the Rabbit Hole had excellent performances, considering the story they were working with. The set-up was intricate and flawless; set designer David Roberts staged a perfect upper middle-class home that was richly detailed, complete with comfortable, modern décor, baskets full of puzzles, and even working faucets. Though mostly “beige,” the home had one suggestive print hanging in the hallway of a figure with its head in its hands -- a small detail that hinted at the pristine home’s fragile emotional core.

John Cassini and Jillian Fargey, as grieving parents Becca and Howie, give a truthful and talented performance, conveying realistic marital problems, emotional differences and other problematic elements that arise in coping with the death of a child. Linda Sorensen as Becca’s mother Nat and Rebecca Auerbach as sister Izzy provide comedy relief for the most part, but each has a tender and unique way of helping (or at least trying to help) the couple deal with their tragedy.

Auerbach’s expressive eyes, spunky sense of humour and punky style made up an endearing character, which took the audience out from under the play’s sadness and brought us back to light comedy in just moments. And though teenaged Jason (Max Kashetsky) is seldom on stage, Kashetsky gives a convincing portrayal of an awkward but brave teenager who humbly puts himself in the midst of the sad family, whose meekness is evident through his physical stance alone.

The culminating moment comes near the end of the play, when Becca achieves a sense of understanding from an unlikely source – high school student and sci-fi enthusiast Jason, who is also implicated in Becca’s son’s death. She receives solace not from her family’s misguided attempts to console, counsel and lift spirits (which she cannot appreciate or relate to), but from Jason’s theories of alternate universes -- an alternate reality where Becca is “having more fun” (as she puts it).

All in all, while a fairly well-written exploration of a family’s grief, I felt Lindsay-Adaire’s Rabbit Hole was a somewhat flat picture without too many surprises and not much to take home in the way of an educational experience. But like a decently-written television show, you barely notice for all the witty banter, tragic styling, and able cast.

© 2008 Erin Jane