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Down the ‘Rabbit Hole’



In the 2006 drama “Rabbit Hole,” playwright David Lindsay-Abaire examines a family’s grief after the accidental death of a young boy. But he doesn’t provide any more insight than have the philosophers, theologians and pop psychologists who’ve come before him. That’s because Lindsay-Abaire takes on the great unanswerable question: Why do bad things happen to good, upper-middle-class people in Larchmont, N.Y.?

He knows the question is unanswerable, so he has created a fascinating study on the myriad ways that we’re changed by and react to tragedy. Directed by W. Jerome Stevenson, Pollard Theatre’s well-staged and exceedingly well-acted production of “Rabbit Hole” avoids the pitfalls of a maudlin, tragedy-of-the-week television movie. A thoughtful look at a family’s upheaval, the play is specific, but its theme is universal.

Jodi Nestander and Michael Edsel play Becca and Howie Corbett, whose son died in the type of accident every parent fears. An ironic, additional burden on the Corbetts is that they not only must bear their own grief, but also console others who grieve.

Such simple actions as removing a dead child’s artwork from the refrigerator and putting it in safe storage may seem practical and sensible to one parent, but be cruel and heartless to the other, who thinks the removal is part of an attempt to erase all memories.

The play’s theme is universal.

The boy’s death brings other characters into the story by family relations or circumstances. Crystal Ecker is Becca’s ditzy sister, Izzy, who has her own issues — being fired from a waitress job as the least of them. Linda McDonald plays Nat, the sisters’ mother, and you can see that Becca’s sensibleness and Izzy’s ditziness both come from her. Teenager Jason Willette (Dalton Thomas, with Justin Bieberlike hair) enters the lives of Becca and Howie in a way that neither want.

The fine acting drives this production. Edsel, who always seems to deliver a solid performance, is excellent as consoler and consoled Howie.

Nestander skillfully reflects the special tragedy of a dead child’s mother. Becca’s practicality and conflict over accepting the death of her son are realistic and saddening.

It is interesting to see how the characters handle grief differently in various situations and with people who come into the story from varying angles. Sometimes Howie and Becca console each other or others; at times, they need consolation. But Lindsay- Abaire also balances the story with a certain amount of not-inappropriate comic relief.

In an age when theater companies stage one inane comedy after another with impunity, Pollard must be commended for opening the season — its 25th — with a modern, suburban tragedy. A big hand for Pollard.

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