Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 13, 2008

“Rabbit Hole”

TheaterWorks, Hartford
through July 20
By Bernadette Johnson

It’s often referred to as “the elephant in the room.” It is the obvious that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. In David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Rabbit Hole,” the elephant is the accidental death of a four-year-old child. Becca and Howard Corbett are the parents, whose lives have been shattered by loss and for whom grief has taken center stage. We are invited into their suburban home where, thanks to TheaterWorks’ intimate space and Luke Hegel-Cantarella’s homey and realistic set design, we are not mere observers. Rather, we are as extended family witnessing the drama that is unfolding, powerfully played out in family dynamics.

Heading a stellar 5-member cast is Erika Rolfsrud as the grieving mother, Becca, whose grief smolders just below the surface, flaring up at the slightest provocation. From the onset, Rolfsrud’s calm exterior, her mechanical folding of laundry, masks an undercurrent of rage. Her lack of affect conveys more eloquently than words the depth of her despair. She is by turns resentful (railing against God), defensive and desperate as she grapples to gain hold of something that will ease the pain.

Joey Parsons is delightful as Becca’s quirky younger sister Izzy, who, together with their ranting mother, the offbeat Nat (Jo Twiss), provides the much-needed balance between tragedy and humor that keeps this intensely emotional drama from becoming just the tale of a devastated family working through the stages of grief and trying to come to terms with traumatic loss. Parsons is able to convey a great deal with a simple shrug of the shoulders or a facial expression.

Becca’s husband, Howie (Dylan Chalfy), deals with their son Danny’s death by preserving his memory and trying to mend their strained relationship. Because he’s more in control than Becca, it is particularly heart-wrenching when his calm exterior crumbles (a powerful performance by Chalfy).

Alec Silberblatt is suitably awkward as Jason, the teen who accidentally hit Danny with his car. A story about parallel universes he wants to dedicate to Danny explains the title and gives Becca a glimmer of hope.

There are no survivors in this drama. They are all victims, weighed down by a heavy feeling that, as Becca’s mother Nat tells her, may change but “never goes away.” We have come to know the victims, individually and collectively, and we walk away feeling privileged to have been entrusted with their story.