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19.9.10

Rabbit Hole

by David Lindsay-Abaire

The more I read this play, the more I like it. This was my third time and I found it funnier than ever. "But Lauren, isn't Rabbit Hole that play about the child who died? What kind of sick sense of humor do you have?" Now now, faithful reader, it is true that this is also a very sad play. There are, however, many moments of humor and joy.

If you have been living in a rabbit hole and are not familiar with this play, it is the story of a family dealing with the grief of losing a small child when he runs into the street and gets hit by a car. I emphasize that the family is dealing with the grief, not wallowing in it. In an effectively written author's note, Lindsay-Abaire tells us, "Yes Rabbit Hole is a play about a bereaved family, but that does not mean they go through the day glazed over, on the verge of tears, morose or inconsolable. That would be a torturous and very uninteresting play to sit through. The characters are, instead, highly functional, unsentimental, spirited, and often funny people who are trying to maneuver their way through their grief and around each other as best they can. ... It's a sad play. Don't make it any sadder than it needs to be."

It's hard to imagine how the parents can ever move on from something like that. Knowing that if one thing had been different that day perhaps it wouldn't have happened - as the characters mention in the story - if the dog hadn't chased the squirrel, if Izzy hadn't phoned the house, if Becca hadn't answered that call, if Jason had driven down a different street.. if, if, if. Ultimately, none of those ifs matter because no one can change what happened. The family has to come to terms with their grief and learn not to place blame. It was truly an accident. Towards the end of the play Becca asks her mom, who has also lost a son, if the pain ever goes away. She responds:
No. I don't think it does. .. It changes though. .. At some point it becomes bearable. It turns into something you can crawl out from under. And carry around - like a brick in your pocket. And you forget it every one in a while, but then you reach in for whatever reason and there is it: "Oh right. That." Which can be awful. But not all the time. Sometimes it's kinda ... Not that you like it exactly, but it's what you have instead of your son, so you don't wanna let go of it either. So you carry it around. And it doesn't go away, which is .. Fine ... actually.
At the end we see Becca and Howie, beginning to take steps forward into a happier future. It is by no means tied up with a bow, however. Lindsay-Abaire says, "Rabbit Hole is not a tidy play. Resist smoothing out its edges." This is the very reason that I loved it. The ending is as complicated as all that has come before - nothing is easy. Mourning is a process unique to the individual, and while time heals all wounds, some scars of the heart are always with us.

Apparently, Lionsgate has picked up the film after Toronto and we'll soon be able to see Nicole Kidman's version on the big screen. I hope she does it justice.

Tomorrow's Play: The 39 Steps adapted by Patrick Barlow

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