Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 21, 2008

Rabbit Hole

New Century Theatre, Northampton
through July 26, 2008
By Donna Bailey-Thompson

Clues to the type of play that will be performed are evident from Emily Dunn’s set design. A front door opens into an open layout of a sprawling family room that links with a kitchen table that fronts a roomy kitchen area. The overall effect is antiseptic; the furnishings could be metal and glass. There is nothing to suggest warmth. Even a child’s bedroom visible on an upper level is hospital-neat, in spite of stuffed animals and a poster. In the opening scene, Becca (Cate Damon) sits at the table folding a small child’s clothes. Her younger sister Izzy (Sandra Blaney) chatters, disclosing information, piecemeal, about herself which culminates with the announcement that she’s pregnant. Does that shock Becca? Only somewhat. Becca is mired in grief for the death of her son several months before, accidentally killed when he chased his dog into the street.

Keep tissues handy.

Oh, there is topical humor but not much. Becca and her husband, Howie (Keith Langsdale) are coping with a loss too profound for them to bear.They can’t derive comfort from one another. They’re living by rote. There is no clue to how they were before the accident. But now, they are barely functional. Izzy tries to divert with inanities, fulfilling a role textbooks classify as the "mascot" Becca’s mother, Nat (Ellen Barry) rattles on. Attempts at normalcy fail. One person who has addressed his grief and guilt is the high school boy, driving with a new license, who while trying to avert hitting the dog instead hit the child. As Jason, Daniel Plimpton "reads" the letter he has written to the parents, a recitation sensitively rendered that exudes authenticity.

Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire’s "Rabbit Hole" won a Pulitzer Prize for the best drama of 2007. This production is well-executed; the performances are strong with one exception: too often dialog is missed because voices are lowered, particularly when Becca speaks of a rabbit hole.