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Down the Rabbit Hole'

November 1, 2012
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Play explores the aftermath of tragedy

EDDINGTON Ten Bucks Theatre Company is bringing a heartbreaking tale of love and loss to the stage.

The company is presenting its production of 'Rabbit Hole,' the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire, at Eddington's Comins Hall from November 1 through November 11.

While the group is perhaps best known for their work in broad comedy and their annual summer Shakespeare production, they have also proven more than capable of presenting powerful and challenging works of a more dramatic nature. 'Rabbit Hole' is such an endeavor, showing once more that they are far more than just slamming doors and iambic pentameter.

Becca (Tracy Green) and Howie (Ben Layman) are a young married couple dealing with the tragic and sudden loss of their young son. Months have passed, but they are still struggling to cope; their world has been turned utterly upside-down and they have yet to find a way to right it. Howie throws himself into his work and attends therapeutic group meetings, while Becca mostly internalizes her grief, with her sister Izzy (Sabrina Wirey) and her mother Nat (Julie Lisnet) serving as her primary support system.

Becca and Howie strive to salvage their relationship, but they encounter difficulty in battling back the slow decay. That difficulty only intensifies as Jason (Logan Bard), the teenaged boy who was driving the car that fateful day, approaches the couple as he himself strives to find closure and attain some measure of forgiveness both from Becca and Howie and from himself.

The interpersonal tide ebbs and flows as each member of this family is forced to search for some meaning behind this meaningless tragedy. In a blameless situation, each of the involved parties finds ways to heap the blame onto their own shoulders.

The sadness of loss permeates 'Rabbit Hole,' but there is also an undeniable love that is shared by this family as each member attempts to hold themselves and their relationships together. And despite that overarching sadness, moments of humor shine throughout, turning what could be a slowly descending spiral of misery into something that somehow finds a way to be uplifting.

Mining that humor is one of the keys to the success of a piece like this one. Without it, 'Rabbit Hole' would become little more than a sadly dark testament to lives that are left without hope or meaning. First-time director Randy Hunt and his cast have discovered these instances of levity; sweet and funny gems that sparkle all the more brightly against the bleak backstory.

And what a cast it is.

Layman is a veteran of local stages, but this is the sort of role we rarely get to see him play. His portrayal of Howie is nuanced and subtle, a portrait of a man struggling with his failure to move past his mourning. His subdued sadness is rendered all the more effective by his occasional outbursts the moments when the inner dam he has erected breaks down. Green's Becca is a perfect counterpoint, wearing her emotions on her sleeve and refusing to allow anyone to tell her how and when she should grieve. Her anger is never far from the surface, bursting forth in ways that unfailingly feel genuine and truthful. The honesty of the emotional dynamic between the two is this piece's bedrock.

But they don't do it alone. Wirey is sweetness wrapped in sass as Izzy, bringing an unflagging energy to the stage. We see her frustration with her family grow, but that frustration is born of a clear and true love for those around her. Lisnet's Nat is bold, brassy and brash, but all of that hides a sensitivity that is empowered by the infrequency of its appearances. There's an inherent tenderness to the character that Lisnet grasps beautifully. And Bard is all awkward apologetics as the young Jason, offering us a glimpse of what guilt and sorrow can do to a young man whose own loss is only compounded by his part in such a senseless and unfortunate accident.

Mark and Sue Shane have once more worked their transformative powers on the Comins Hall stage, creating a wonderfully elaborate space in which the actors may work. One of the hardest things to do when it comes to set and lighting design is to make a small space feel larger; the Shanes have done so with seeming ease. The set doesn't look like a set; the lights don't feel like theatrical lighting there may be no higher compliment a designer can be paid.

Put it all together and you've got a production that is introspective and engaging. 'Rabbit Hole' is full of sadness, but it also allows room for rays of hope. That hopefulness and humor, along with some dynamic performances, make it a show well worth seeing.

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