What could be worse than losing a child? Imagine your sweet little son dying suddenly in an accident where no one is obviously to blame. How would you come to terms with that? How would you cope with your grief? These are the wrenching questions explored with quiet intelligence in David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2007 Pulitzer Prize winning play Rabbit Hole.
Becca (Jillian Fargey) and Howie (John Cassini) are the couple whose comfortably upscale home and uncomfortably changed-forever lives we enter eight months after Danny, their four-year-old only child, ran out into the street after his dog and was hit by a car. Becca is inconsolable. Howie seems to be doing marginally better. He goes to work and attends group therapy sessions. But he refuses to remove any of Danny’s things from the house and late at night secretly watches home videos of his lost boy.
Other characters also have stakes in Danny’s death. Becca’s lively and plain-spoken younger sister Izzy (Rebecca Auerbach) is pregnant, posing painful reminders to Becca. Even more painful are the well-intentioned attempts of Izzy and Becca’s mother, Nat (Linda Sorenson), to offer consolation and advice based on the death of her own son. That only angers Becca, who points out that her brother was 30 and a heroin addict when he died—hardly comparable to her loss. Then there’s Jason (a beautifully understated Max Kashetsky), the high-schooler driving the car that killed Danny. His sweetness and innocence defuse any attempt by the parents to find closure in blaming him.
So where and how is closure to be found? The tension builds throughout the first act. Will they sell the house and try to erase all memory of Danny? Will they have another child and try to start over? Becca and Howie can hardly connect anymore—will their marriage even survive their son much longer? Or will Becca simply explode?
I won’t give away the answers except to say that the play and Rachel Ditor’s beautifully acted production avoid the kind of melodrama you might expect from the Movie of the Week subject. Their conversations have the ring of real life. Auerbach and Sorenson provide humour. Fargey has made a career of playing this angry, anguished character, rolled up inside herself as tightly as a fist, and she and Cassini offer nicely contained performances with just a few high notes.
Still, the play feels dramatically diluted. The tension slowly leaks out of the second act as time passes and wounds heal. David Roberts’ beautiful but huge domestic interior set sprawls across the Stanley stage. But the play itself is small. It wants to be intense and intimate so we can touch, and be touched by, the characters’ pain.