Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire

Dealing with the most traumatic event any parent can endure--the death of a child--David Lindsay-Abaire manages to involve his audience in the grieving process and illustrate how we all grieve differently and for different lengths of time. Despite the subject matter, this 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning play is often extremely funny, setting up emotional contrasts between ironic humor and infinite sadness which make the loss of the child more poignant, without dissolving into bathos.

Danny, a four-year-old chasing his dog, has been struck and killed by a car driven by a seventeen-year-old driver, and the family is trying to cope with their grief. As the play opens, Becca, the child's mother, is folding the laundry--Danny's clothes--which she has just washed in preparation for giving them away. She has internalized her feelings, refusing group therapy, any religious counseling, and especially the advice of her overbearing mother. Her husband Howie goes to work, attends group therapy, becomes friends with some of the other grieving parents, and tries to coax Becca into becoming a wife again.

Among the other characters, Nat, Becca's mother, has all the pat answers, and she equates the loss of this child with her own loss of her adult son, something she insists on emphasizing to Becca. Izzy, Becca's sister, an off-the-wall case of arrested development, has been having an affair and is now pregnant, an eventuality with which Becca must now learn to cope, especially since Izzy has used Danny's death as an excuse for her irresponsible behavior. Jason, the seventeen-year-old driver of the car, is also trying to come to grips with the events, blaming himself, reliving every moment, searching for some sort of forgiveness which he is not sure he deserves.

As the characters interact, we see them as individuals, not just as participants in the terrible drama of their shattered world, but we also see that grief is not and cannot be a full-time activity. Many moments of humor make their lives more realistic and provide relief for the audience. As the eight months from Danny's death until the end of the play elapse, we see changes in all the characters, but the play ends (blessedly) without pat answers. Each character is different, reacting differently to the Danny's death, grieving their loss differently, and learning to cope differently. The audience, drawn into the events, will also react differently, respond to different characters in different ways, and imagine differently how they themselves would respond. Moving, memorable, and ultimately uplifting. - Mary Whipple


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