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‘Rabbit Hole’ expresses real grief

Published: March 7, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc., Top Stories


This past weekend, the Brandeis Players presented David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Rabbit Hole,” the winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Directed by Jessie Field, stage managed by Briana Schiff and produced by Yoni Bronstein, the play starred a small but versatile and well-balanced cast: Julia Davidovitz, Emily Duggan, Ben Lewin, Zachary Marlin and Jamie Perutz.

The premise of “Rabbit Hole” is straightforward. A young married couple, Becca (Jamie Perutz) and Howie (Zachary Marlin), lose their four-year-old son, Danny, after he runs into the street after his dog. The underlying themes of the story, however, are far from one-dimensional. Subjects involving grief, coping mechanisms and family relationships embody the performance, which force the audience to look and reach beyond the plot’s surface.

“Rabbit Hole” is a story without resolution, refusing to reach for a tidy ending in the tragedy of a lost child. Instead, the play deals with the weight of loss and how the feeling of that weight—the brick in your pocket—lightens with each passing day. The weight becomes part of your character, something you carry around with you forever. Nat (Emily Duggan) explains this phenomenon in an eloquent and powerful way to her daughter, Becca. Duggan does a commendable job in playing the role of a mother. Her motherly appeal brings slight comic relief to the story. At the same time, her buried grief for her own son who passed away is exposed to offer a gentle shoulder for Becca’s disposal.

As noted in the play’s program, this production of “Rabbit Hole” was dedicated to the 20 children who were lost in Newtown, Conn., three months ago. The parents of those 20 students were not doing anything wrong, Jessie Field notes, by sending them to school on that December day. The calamity could not have been anticipated and the overwhelming grief cannot now be softened.

While “Rabbit Hole” is primarily a heavy drama, hints of comedy pepper the story, lightening the weight of the play’s messages. Izzy (Julia Davidovitz) is Becca’s rebellious, wild and loving sister. While her relationship with Becca shows the necessary compassion, her wild side sparks wit throughout the story. Davidovitz’s clear comfort on stage and contagious appeal brought invaluable energy to the production.

While the characters are all strong-willed and individually distinct, an underlying chemistry in the cast made for a fluid performance. Each character also possesses a quality with which the audience can easily relate. Becca and Howie both embody the frustration, empathy and uncertainty inevitable when a family loses a child. Perutz delivers her role with genuine depth, bringing to life the anguish that comes with such a loss. Authentic and believable, Marlin delivers his role in a way that makes his character endearing.

Ben Lewin plays the role of Jason, the high school senior who was driving the car that hit Danny. Jason’s character adds an interesting twist to the plot. His short story, based on alternative universes, teaches Becca an alternative way to view her family’s difficult situation. Lewin captures the naiveté and curiosity of a high school student in his role as Jason. His evidently deep regret for Danny’s death also underlines the uncontrollable nature of such tragedies.

The Brandeis cast of “Rabbit Hole” should be commended on their performance. Captivating and eloquent in delivering the underlying messages of the story, they offered audiences an opportunity to understand the progression of grief and the value of compassion.