CU Theatre & Dance stages “Rabbit Hole”
This spring, the University of Colorado’s Department of Theatre and Dance presents a week-long run of “Rabbit Hole,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire about the different ways people cope with loss.
The cathartic, heartbreaking drama follows Becca and Howie, a young married couple who recently lost their young son in a car accident. Along with friends, family members and strangers, they experience feelings of guilt, anger and sadness in their journeys toward healing.
“In a lot of ways, ‘Rabbit Hole’ is about grief,” says the director, Wesley Longacre. “It’s exploring how people grieve, when those moments of grief show up and surprise them, and when they have moments of reprieve from that sense of loss.”
Longacre, a PhD candidate in Theatre at CU-Boulder, says the play takes place entirely inside Becca and Howie’s house. The audience will be seated in a thrust formation “as close as possible” to the stripped-down set.
“I love theater that is just a bit more in your face, a little more experiential,” Longacre explains. “Everything happens in one place, and it’s a five-person cast … the intimacy of the play just begs for an intimate experience with the audience. I wanted to bring the audience into Becca and Howie’s house.”
At the heart of “Rabbit Hole” is an exploration of the different ways individuals process grief. Some characters lash out unexpectedly at their loved ones, while others try to mask the sadness by keeping busy and feigning cheerfulness. The play’s nuanced characters and astonishingly realistic dialogue earned it four Tony nominations in 2006, the year of its Broadway premiere; Cynthia Nixon won the award for Best Actress in a Play for her turn as Becca.
“The sad, sweet release of ‘Rabbit Hole’ lies precisely in the access it allows to the pain of others, in its meticulously mapped empathy,” New York Times reviewer Ben Brantley wrote after opening night. “The wrenching new play … inspires such copious weeping among its audience that you wonder early on if you should have taken a life jacket.”
Longacre, who says he’s no stranger to loss himself, describes the play as a rewarding emotional journey for actors and audiences alike.
“Facing the subject matter head-on has allowed us all to deal with some pain and loss that hasn’t really come up before, and to see that journey [in rehearsals] is really moving,” Longacre says. “That’s what theater can do—whether you’re acting in it or watching it, it can give you an opportunity for catharsis.”
Despite its dark subject matter, “Rabbit Hole” is filled with small moments of humor and joy, especially as its characters begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I think, ultimately, this is as much a play about loss as it is about life and hope in the midst of that loss,” Longacre says. “As painful as a death can be, after a while it’s possible to keep moving.”