If grief is your favorite emotion, you’re going to love “Rabbit Hole,” David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a couple whose 4-year-old son was killed in an accident.
The accident (the little boy ran out in the street after his dog and was hit by a car), happened eight months ago, but the couple is still in a catatonic meltdown. She, Becca, (Sharon Gardner) is unrelentingly grim and angry, in the “don’t touch me!” mode. He, Howie, (Jeffrey Doornbos) is a good guy, trying to reach out to her, even though he is struggling with his own unresolved grief. And upstage left sits set designer Richard Reynolds’ perfect “little boy” bedroom, still filled with stuffed animals, a clown chair, and a bookcase full of storybooks.
And that’s the whole play. Becca’s mother, played by a still beautiful Katharine Ross, comes in periodically to offer some unwanted motherly advice. She, too, has lost a son — a drug addict who hanged himself at 31, but Becca rejects any comparison between her mother’s loss and her own.
Becca has a younger sister, Izzie, (Tasha Ames) who, with her lively, sarcastic comments provides the only comic relief. And finally, there is Jason (Mimo Reynolds), the teenager responsible for the accident, who is as tormented as Becca and Howie.
For more than two hours the audience is plunged into this unadulterated grief, and while all the actors are uniformly excellent, under the strong direction of Graeme Clifford, the time spent feels like sitting through a long requiem mass without even the benefit of a Hallelujah Chorus!
The story arc, such as it is, moves in infinitesimal increments toward what apparently is an intimation of resolution. Presumably, the other elements of Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ five stages of grief happened earlier, (before the time covered in the play), or not at all, since all we are witness to is anger and, in the end, tentative acceptance.
The play’s title is taken from a short story that Jason, the teenager, dedicates to the little boy’s memory. In the story, the protagonist enters a series of rabbit holes to find parallel universes where people from Earth live alternate lives.
Becca and Howie’s comfortable home in Larchmont, a suburb north of Manhattan, has a warm lighting design by Richard Reynolds and original background music composed by Mimo Reynolds. In fact, the production qualities in this delightful woodside playhouse are first-rate. One can only wish that the play itself were a little less deadly.
“Rabbit Hole” will continue at the Malibu Stage Theater, 29243 Pacific Coast Hwy. in Malibu Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. through March 14. Call (310) 589-1998 for tickets.
Cynthia Citron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.