In March 2009, a theater company in Malibu mounted a run of David Lindsay-Abaire’s play “Rabbit Hole,” which chronicles the effects of the death of a 4-year-old on the rest of his family. While it was a fine production overall, this is what I wrote about it then:
“For more than two hours the audience is plunged into this unadulterated grief … The time spent feels like sitting through a long requiem mass without even the benefit of a Hallelujah Chorus!”
Now, two and a half years later, “Rabbit Hole” is being presented again, this time at the Pierson Playhouse in the Pacific Palisades, and it is a much more engaging, less intense experience to sit through. I credit this to the tight direction of Tony Torrisi, who keeps the play moving at a quickened pace and the actors alive and even funny amidst their overwhelming grief.
In this rendition, Becca, the mother, is played softly by Lara Doucette. She has withdrawn into numbness, unable to reach out to her husband, Howie (Samuel Huntington). He, on the other hand, carries his pain clutched tight to his bosom, releasing it sporadically in angry bursts. They are a well-matched, sympathetic pair.
The two other members of the family are Izzy (Lauren Dykes), Becca’s impulsive younger sister, and Nat (Catherine Lydon), the girls’ imprudent and tactless mother who unwittingly rubs everyone the wrong way with her pithy comments. She, too, has lost a son — a 30-year-old drug addict who hanged himself, but Becca coldly refuses to equate her mother’s loss of a son with her own loss.
And finally, there is Jason (Michael Conoscenti), the teenager who was driving the car that killed their little boy as he ran into the street after his dog. Jason is as tormented as Becca and Howie, and Conoscenti conveys his emotions with a twitchy unease that makes his anguish palpable.
In the end, however, life moves on. The family rallies around the ecstatically pregnant Izzy, and Becca and Howie begin to understand that “at some point (the grief) becomes bearable” as they move toward recovery and an attempt to renew their disrupted relationship.
“Rabbit Hole” is a well-written, thoughtful play. And, as director Torrisi notes in the playbill, it’s “not a play about death, but about living.”
“Rabbit Hole” will continue at the Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Rd., in Pacific Palisades, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Oct. 2. Call (310) 454-1970 for tickets.
Cynthia Citron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.