New York City Theater
“Rabbit Hole” is a sensitive drama which deals with the death of a child. How does one handle such a loss? Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire explores its many ramifications within one family. The characters and their relationships come alive, and under Daniel Sullivan’s skillful direction the story moves forward at a lively pace. It is only toward the end that the play peters out, fading slowly into oblivion. Can it be that Lindsay-Abaire did not quite know how to end the piece, how to resolve the issues?
The story concerns a four-year-old child who had dashed into the road pursuing his dog and was struck—and killed--by a high school boy who may have been driving over the speed limit. Devastated by the loss are the mother, as well as her husband, her mother, and her sister—and the driver himself. All the action takes place after the boy’s death, though he is very much a presence throughout the story.
But, more than the play itself, it is each performance which makes this piece so moving. Topping the list is the excellent Cynthia Nixon as the shattered mother Becca. Her approach is deliberately low-key on the surface, but with ripples of intensity just beneath which are allowed to erupt at unexpected moments. Both Tyne Daly as Nat, the loud, talky mother, and Mary Catherine Garrison as Izzy, the hippy sister, provide sharp-edged comic relief and contrast. Added to the plot mix is the death, years before, of Nat’s own son, who succumbed to a drug overdose at age 30, and the pregnancy of Izzy, which serves to underscore Becca’s loss. Least satisfying member of the cast is John Slattery as the husband Howie, who, too often, resorts to a shouting match in order to express his passions. Finally, though in a relatively minor role, John Gallagher, Jr. is most appealing as the guilt-ridden high school student Jason. Quiet, soft-spoken, fumbling, he reaches out to Becca in one painful scene, as she offers him comfort in the form of lemon squares. It is the strongest scene of all, though it moves at a snail’s pace, and precipitates the dirge-like finale.
But all told this is a thoughtful drama which takes on a topic we would all rather avoid—death and its effect upon those closest to the deceased.
-- Irene Backalenick
March 25, 2006