Rabbit Hole debut on Thursday, November 12 with an all-student cast was a great production about a family’s nine-month struggle over the passing of their son set inside their house. Becca (Courtney Rogue) and Howie (Ben Sarat) lost their 5-year-old son Danny knocked down by Jason (Jose Disla)’s car. Through the interaction among family members, also including Nat (Siara), Becca’s mom, and Izzy (Ebony), Becca’s younger sister, audiences were able to see how the family goes from disagreements to harmony in a very detailed changing stage setup.
The physical setup of the play is effective in its representation of the family’s ebbs and flows through nostalgia and condolences. There is always a ray of light projected onto the toys hanging from the ceiling. Although Danny’s belongings gradually disappear from the stairs as Becca gives them away, Danny’s corner is always up there. The back entrance prepares the audience for the outbursts of conflicts as the actors show up running toward or from the stage, such as when Jason runs away from the house upon Howie’s defensive yell. After Becca’s self-alienation from Howie and their decision to sell the house, we see how the family home is transformed into a “business” in Howie’s word after the intermission. Nevertheless, despite renovation and reduction of nostalgic objects, Howie as the man of the house still defends the family from outside intrusion as he forbids Jason from “walk-in tours”. The house is always a site to preserve family history. The videotape recordings of Danny is projected onto the back screen casting the light of nostalgia on the whole household.
The objects in the house, especially those reminiscent of Danny, are rendered good care by everyone. As a dedicated housewife, even the suffering from the loss of Danny does not stop Becca from performing tasks such as shopping and baking to keep the integrity of her home. Giving some of Danny’s objects to Izzy also allows the memory to stay within the family. Upon an accident where Becca recorded a TV program over Danny’s tape, Howie accuses Becca of her nonchalance and attempt to erase Danny from their memory. Throughout the play we are able to see how a shared family condolence is exacerbated by misunderstandings and conflicts among family members. Becca is probably the biggest victim in losing her own child, but one who, despite strong grievances, continues to show her motherly kindness.
Food and drinks are important means of emotional exchange, no matter among family members or with strangers. The act of taking in food is symbolic of sustaining metabolism and invigorating life. In Izzy’s example from the start when she is just pregnant, to her birthday, and to her nine-month pregnancy, her connoisseurship shows her carefree personality and entitlement to the new life in contrast to Becca’s anxiety and dissatisfaction over every detail although being the provider of food. Yet her offering food is often paired with rejecting or withdrawing food or liquor as a way to show her loss and lack of control: the decision to sell the house exactly starts from misunderstanding of Howie’s intention over drink to create intimacy; she quarrels with Nat who takes binge and can’t stop babbling about political anecdotes implying Danny’s death; she invites and offers lemon bars to Jason and listens to his college happy stories. When Becca and Howie cannot restore their happiness of marriage for a while, they seek comfort from strangers outside the family, including Howie comforting a woman over dinner from the support group and Becca’s bond with Jason against Howie’s will. Not that the mutual support among family members are overshadowed by their conflicts. It takes time for them to be open and resolve the tension, such as when Becca shows her approval and good wish to Izzy’s baby, and Becca reconnects with Nat by discussing their shared experiences of losing sons.
Danny is the only visible stranger involved in the play (?). I particularly like Jose Disla’s role of Jason, initiator of family’s struggle as the young driver who ran into Danny. His rendering of Jason’s guilt, apologetic nature, and sincerity is very on spot, vastly different from his persona in real life. Despite the destructive force to the family, Jason is able to realize his redemption through his creative acting in performing the condolence letter to Becca and his multiverse article dedication to Danny, giving the tragic event an alternative happy ending. The use of multiverse theory exactly reminds us of the title Rabbit Hole itself, and to encourage us to never lose hope for possibilities that would create better stories. And in the end, upon the situation where no one is taking over the house, the family decide to keep it and rebuild this home. Rabbit Hole is a hopeful play that celebrates the restoration of a house and rebirth of a family through the most mundane conflicts.
Rabbit Hole. Written by David Lindsay-Abaire. Directed by Stephanie Burlington Daniels. Weber Theater, Wheaton College, Norton, MA. Nov. 12, 2015. Play.