The Chapel Street Players in Newark, Delaware took on the challenge of presenting the area premiere of David Lindsay–Abaire’s 2007 Pulitzer Prize winning play RABBIT HOLE. The show, which received a film adaptation in 2010, follows a married couple and their family as they grapple with the tragic loss of their four-year-old son. Don’t let the heavy subject matter scare you away however. The show, which is actually quite funny in parts, picks up some eight months after the accident and is really a study of the different ways individuals have of dealing with grief.
“Realism” is definitely the watchword for this show, clearly well directed by Anthony Bosco. A beautifully constructed set consisting of a living room, kitchen, staircase, and even upstairs kids room creates a fully immersive scene that puts us right into the couple’s home. We are first introduced to Becca (Kate Brennan), the grieving mother, and her wild younger sister Izzy (Jessica Rowland-Eppler ) as they delicately dance around the subject while discussing Izzy’s latest exploits. Brennan, who comes with a rather impressive list of credits, starts the show a little weak. I felt her vocal performance could use a little more animation while her physical performance was just slightly too exaggerated for such an intimate space. However, Brennan’s talent and total buy-in of the role, won me over by the end of show. Rowland-Eppler, by contrast, had me from the start of the show. She was by far the most comfortable, natural, and realistic performer of the night. Considering how natural the rest of the cast was, that is really saying something. Her reactions, movements, inflections, and infectious smile, kept the energy of the show driving forward whenever she was on stage.
Becca’s husband Howie (Jason Fawcett) seems, at least in the beginning, to be dealing with the tragedy better than his wife. Fawcett, too, was very comfortable and natural in the role. He captured all the normal gestures and body language one would expect from this man no matter how subtle. Never once did these motions, inflections, and body language seem acted.
Rounding out the family was Becca’s mother Nat (Marlene Hummel) who is both comic relief and motherly support. Hummel was quite funny in the role, and yet, not to the point of becoming a caricature. We are very aware of Nat’s humanism and importance to the process. It’s a difficult line to walk and Hummel handled it like a pro.
The other character in the show was Jason (Neil Redfield). Jason, a high school senior, was involved in the accident which took the child’s life. He, too, becomes an important part of the process. Redfield, who is new to the area, certainly did a wonderful job with this role. Having to face the family would’ve been quite difficult for Jason, and Redfield reflected that well.
RABBIT HOLE, while funny and entertaining, is certainly not for everybody. Those highly sensitive to loss and those easily offended by language may want to consider that before going. The show is not gratuitous in language, but is a realistic portrayal of people dealing with grief. So there definitely is some strong language when called for. Consider it PG-13.
But if you don’t fall into either of those two above exceptions, I highly encourage you to go see RABBIT HOLE. There is a reason why the show won the Pulitzer Prize. David Lindsay-Abaire’s script is powerful, humorous, and painfully real. You will likely run the gamut of emotional responses but you’ll also gain great insight into how different people deal with life’s tragedies in different ways. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll learn. What more can you ask from a play?
by David Lindsay-Abair
Directed by Anthony Bosco
February 25 – March 12, 2011
Chapel Street Players
27 N. Chapel St.
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