Goodman Associate Producer and Director Steve Scott has assembled an all-Chicago cast for the Midwest premiere of Abaire’s compassionate, heartfelt and remarkably honest play. Artistic Director Robert Falls has stated that the unofficial theme of this Goodman season is “The institution of family in varying shapes and guises.” Rabbit Hole fits perfectly in this category of domestic ambiguity.
The story revolves around a couple that has recently lost their 4-year-old child in a terrible accident. It is a tender play that deals with the coping of such a tragedy, the couple’s partnership, their grieving process, and how their closest relatives play into the healing process – or hinder it.
There is something intriguing about watching people cope with horrible and unfortunate situations in life because the material is so real to us. In Rabbit Hole the characters are so extremely well-rounded that you swear you know them. And because they are true to life, you empathize with them. The complexity of how one deals with this unthinkable situation is beyond comprehension. “Everyone has suffered a grieving process and everyone knows how mysterious that process is and how unpredictable it is. That’s what this play really examines,” says Scott. Everyone can relate to it because everyone has suffered loss.
David Lindsay-Abaire also understands the importance of humor. In Rabbit Hole it is a means for the family to cope with the trauma. Walking a fine line between earnest reality and blissful lunacy, the world of his plays is often dark-humored, witty, fast-paced, carefree, ironic, biting, and strange. "My plays tend to be peopled with outsiders in search of clarity," he says. This stands true in Rabbit Hole but the world he has created here is vastly different from his previous six plays. This world is the one we know. It is more dramatic and less farcical than his other works.
The simple fact that Abaire can create tremendously opposite worlds speaks to his undeniable understanding of human psyche, staying power, and downright talent.
In the play, rabbit holes pertain to a science fiction theory in which one travels through a warp hole into another existence that parallels your own, except the circumstances are different. That is to say, if you are miserable in this existence, you go through a rabbit hole and find that in a parallel existence, you’re happy.
The reference to Alice in Wonderland is also undeniable. Alice, a child, goes down the rabbit hole thus beginning the adventure. Everything is ‘topsy turvy’ and nothing is the way it seems. Scott is sure that is exactly what the characters in the play are experiencing.
Lia Mortensen plays Becca, the mother who lost her child, Danny. “As an actor, in order to do the job properly, you have to go to that place and fortunately or unfortunately, I am a mother of two… one who is five, about the same age [as Danny]. It’s a hard place to go, to really imagine what it must be like to loose your child and really go there so it’s believable for the audience.”
Mortensen describes the rut of the family’s grief in wonderful metaphor. “There’s nothing worse than being stuck in this limbo and not moving forward. If the play is a river stuck behind a rock what they [the family] really need to do is get around the rock and get back into the current again. As long as you’re moving, this too shall pass.”