‘Rabbit Hole’ Pulitzer winning play shines with Breach Once More productions
Breach Once More Productions presentation of David Lindsay-Abaire’s award-winning play “Rabbit Hole” is a ‘tour de force’ of high caliber quality. As soon as the first few words of dialog were spoken in the opening scene, on Saturday night, it was clear why Breach Once More selected this 2007 Pulitzer-winning play as a vehicle for their considerable talent.
“Rabbit Hole” is an intense drama about a family in grief over the loss of a child. Yet it is Lindsay-Abaire’s insightful and contemporary playwright abilities that place “Rabbit Hole” in the stratosphere of the noteworthy and more than earns an audience’s attention. It is the type of play that pulls you in, even when you might resist because of the subject matter.
Each of the five characters of “Rabbit Hole” is struggling with the sudden loss of little Danny who darted out into the street, chasing his dog, who was chasing a squirrel.
While the focus of this drama is the married couple ‘Becca and Howie Corbett’ it is the dynamics of their grief that impacts those around them.
‘Becca portrayed by Amber Collins Crane and ‘Howie’ played by Steve Bologna, represent the individual reactions to and the coping with grief.
The extended members of the family, Becca’s sister Izzy – played by Mia Romero and their mom (Danny’s grandma) ‘Nat’ played by Mary Price Moore try to maintain a connection to the couple as their stable marriage shakes.
“The play is a unique window into the grieving process,” said production manager, Lauren Burgat. Critics have praised Lindsay-Abaire’s ability to hold up a mirror to life. And as the NY Times in its review of his play said…”in this instance (the play) has been polished to a high reflective sheen.”
“A marriage is tested most when loss of a child occurs,” said Deborah Schwing, MFT, LPCC. She is the Bereavement Services Manager at Hospice by the Bay. This reviewer reached out to Hospice by the Bay to verify some of the issues of grief “Rabbit Hole” expresses.
The trust between Becca and Howie starts to unravel as memories and personal items of their child get sorted. For Becca, the memories are painful, for Howie the things that remind him of Danny help comfort. When Becca wants to sell the house, Howie is apprehensive.
“Each person expresses and deals with grief differently, said Schwing. Yet there are indicators – markers that are common to the grieving process.”
While Schwing has not yet seen the play, she says that how a marriage is tested by loss and grief depends on the foundation the couple started with going into the marriage.
“Losing a child is a great leveler of class-structure and status, she said. It is a devastating human experience that all cultures deal with universally.”
She also noted that in some ways a marriage is like a ship at sea. Some couples can weather the storm others are not able to do so. Schwing said, “the survival of the marriage hinges, again on what the foundation of the marriage was before the loss occurred.”
All five actors in this 90-minute play shine brightly. Each individual performance that Saturday evening after opening night was strong and did not deter or over-step from the collective talent of the entire ensemble. Watching this intense play about grief it would be easy to fold up from the complexity and the intricate details of powerful emotions. But it is Lindsay-Abaire’s ability to write substantial material that gives the actors a firm-framed vehicle to take the audience on a journey.
No actor overpowered the other in the manifestation of her or his character. The interactions/reactions they had in dealing with one another was seamless. There were no gaps or flubs in dialog; and their emotional cadence was on target. All of the actors, Mia Romero, Amber Collins Crane, Steve Bologna and Mary Price Moore were exceptional.
But it was the character of Jason, portrayed by Hector Mendez that brought out the importance of forgiveness in times of grief for the play. Jason is the one was driving his car down the street when the dog chasing the squirrel and Danny dart out. This is Mendez’s major acting debut in San Francisco. His performance as a 17-year-old, senior in high school dealing with something so earthshattering, gave witness to the exceptional dynamics of the actors. Yet as someone who is still in training at San Francisco State University, Mendez’ debut gives praise to the talent of the play’s director Michael Barr.
“Rabbit Hole” is Barr’s first play with Breach Once More. His extensive experience as a director, especially here in the San Francisco Bay Area, has him in demand. He has worked with California Conservatory Theatre, Livermore Shakespeare Festival, Novato Theatre Company and the Ross Valley Players just to name a few of the many.
Performances are at 8 PM on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at the Young Performers Theater in Fort Mason Center at Marina Blvd. Building C, #300. Note that on Fridays, Off The Grid takes place at Fort Mason so get there early and enjoy dishes from over 30 food trucks and after the play, stay and dance to live music. “Rabbit Hole” continues showing until March 24. Parking is free. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. For price, directions to Fort Mason Center and other details visit the Breach Once More web site.
-Written and submitted by Jonathan Farrell, freelance Bay Area journalist. Photo by Gregory Crane