BSA's production of 'Rabbit Hole' will touch you without depressing you

 Bellevue Society for the Arts

Bellevue Society for the Arts

Why is the woman who's grieving the loss of her 4-year-old son talking about parallel existences to the teenager who accidentally killed her child?

What's she doing befriending him in the first place? Isn't she supposed to harbor animosity toward him, like her husband does? After all, losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a parent.

But the grieving process is complex and different people react in different ways.

With his compassionate writing and keen observations, playwright David Lindsay-Abaire makes that crystal clear in his 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Rabbit Hole."

It's on-stage in the Bellevue Society for the Arts' Hirt Theatre for two more performances.

Lindsay-Abaire's relatable, touching, funny, but never depressing play deftly illustrates the subjectivity of mourning.

It can be a dizzying, topsy-turvy marathon of shifting emotions and coping methods, confusion and a search for a new normalcy. There's no right or wrong way of experiencing grief, as the playwright aptly illustrates.

One might question whether "Rabbit Hole," while powerful and heartfelt, is Pulitzer-Prize worthy material. The plot's thin, the story doesn't break any new ground in the topic of loss and mourning and it can come across as static.

But there's shifting desires in motion in "Rabbit Hole."

These characters are searching, experimenting, on the move to find out what works best for them.

Lindsay-Abaire never makes "Rabbit Hole," which achieves the right balance of humor and drama, sentimental or unbearable.

A talented Bellevue Society for the Arts cast seems on the same page as the playwright. They're not always near tears or inconsolable, although they are overcome at times.They're spirited people trying to navigate their own way through an extremely difficult time.

The actors, with their nuanced, multifaceted and natural performances, let the characters' situation naturally lead to strong emotions.

There were microphone issues at the performance I attended, and in at least once scene, it was hard to hear snippets of dialogue. But overall, kudos to this cast and crew.

Cyndi Hineline conveys an outer calm, strength and, when necessary, reassuring compassion as Becca. She also imbues her with a sensitivity, a strong will that turns Becca defensive and unleashes understated, spontaneous sobbing.

Ray Sizemore III has the appropriately subdued aura of a father who's lost his little boy. Sizemore also makes Howie playful, affable and casual. Still, there's obvious tension brewing within Sizemore's Howie, and when it reachs a boiling point, the character's rage and sadness sounds devastatingly real.

As Nat, Becca's mother, Nancy Derby nails the character's opinionated personality, but also makes Nat the rock on which Becca can lean (the lighting appropriately dims during such personal, sad moments and brightens during more upbeat scenes).

Blake Borer-Miller as Jason, the teen who accidentally struck Danny with his car as the child chased his dog, succeeds as a tense, awkward youth who's at first overly polite when speaking with Becca. Director Nancy Steyer wisely has them seated apart, although they're sitting on the same couch. During that scene, he gradually and seamlessly becomes more comfortable as he listens to the compassionate Becca, who makes it clear neither she nor her husband blame him, He cracks a grin, smiles and even laughs as the two warm up to each other.

You can't help but feel for the boy, and Borer-Miller makes it clear Jason's a good, gentle lad without evil intentions. What he does in Danny's memory -- and this is where science fiction enters the story without distracting it -- is particularly touching.

Jason and Becca's younger sister, Izzy, are two of the less developed characters.

The latter's your typical eye-rolling, irresponsible party girl who live only for the moment. She seems the perfect candidate to sleep with a total stranger without realizing the consequences. All that's missing from Izzy in this production are tattoos or pierced parts of her body. One might view her pregnancy as not just a source of jealousy for the childless Becca but a chance to vicariously play the role of mother.

Sporting long pigtails, Jennifer Miller shines in the part. With her girlish talk, wisecracking, eyerolling and boundless energy (Izzy somersaults and jumps onto the couch and casually rests on it) Miller plays her just right; as a young woman who needs to grow up -- fast.

But even with this somewhat underwritten role, Miller finds the compassion and sensitivity in the part when called for.

"Rabbit Hole" is like an onion; the play begins on a comedic note as Izzy describes a fight she got into while in a bar ("It's just so Jerry Springer" a character remarks). It appears this household (designed orderly and with detail, including a nice touch that spells out Danny's name atop his bed) is quirky and happy with nothing tragic having transpired.

As the play progresses, the playwright slowly reveals the somberness, peeling away at that "onion."

Just as we can't help but cry while cutting onions, tears and compassion will flow as we watch these relatable, likable characters go through a parent's worst nightmare.

Thanks to the playwright, the production and the cast and crew, we feel for them but depression's kept at bay.

Cast members "have thought long and hard about each and every word to bring this story to you," director Steyer writes.

It certainly appears that way.


WHAT: "Rabbit Hole"

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday 1/30 and Saturday 1/31

WHERE: Hirt Theatre, 205 Maple St., Bellevue

HOW MUCH: Tickets are $12 for adults 18 and older and $8 for adults 60 and older and students through grade 12.

Call 419-484-ARTS (2787) for reservations.