For all their differences, Izzy and Becca are true sisters, loyal, funny and combative. Izzy, the younger, lives outside the rules but in the moment. She has plenty of latitude because Becca already has claimed ownership on being smart, intelligent and responsible.
In the opening scene of Rabbit Hole, a beautifully written, Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire now on stage at Durango High School, the sisters engage in seemingly casual banter.
Dont let the easy exchange fool you. The playwright has set several themes in motion that recur and finally pay off by the end of the play. Its a remarkably funny opening given the plays tragic core.
The Durango High School Thespian Troupe 1096 chose this contemporary work as the focus of its winter program. It is a brave choice considering the age and experiential differences between cast and characters. When it was first announced, I was skeptical that a young cast could bring it to meaningful life.
Rabbit Hole is a nuanced family drama about adults coping with the death of an only child. Last weekend, not only did the students surprise me, but the production uncovered rich details and important parallels between various characters. A movie version starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart will arrive in town soon, so dont miss seeing the original play. When Rabbit Hole first appeared on Broadway, it won all kinds of awards, and Kidmans movie performance has been nominated for an Oscar.
The play begins eight months after Becca and Howie (played with mature intelligence and surprising warmth by Naomi Rodri and Conor Sheehan) have lost their 4-year-old son, Danny, in a freak car accident. Becca and Howie already have been through a grief group, and it is not surprising their individual struggles continue on very different paths. Sister Izzy and mother Nat offer different kinds of support.
On the opening weekend, Crystal Marney portrayed a wonderfully breezy and confident Izzy. Jackie Honold played the difficult role of Nat, Dannys grandmother.
It is she who brazenly gives advice, often hits the wrong note and must shift from a pushy desire to fix things to calm acceptance. Everyone in the family faces another component of the American way of death the rest of the world largely doesnt care. That issue is not ignored.
Things go wrong. Izzys birthday party goes astray.
An unexpected discovery threatens family loyalty. Along the way, we learn more about each characters life and other losses.
A surprise request complicates the texture of grief.
All that will be said here is that Kyle Downs gave a moving soliloquy that resonated through the audience. By the end, a complex human tapestry of splendid proportions had been woven.
Director Mona Wood-Patterson has created yet again an atmosphere in which her very young players rise to mature performance. Important silences are respected. Subtle gestures and looks have meaning, and nothing is rushed or papered over. The production isnt without flaws, but they are too minor to mention here.
Charles Fords set is an intriguing combination of realistic detail and abstract innovation.
The Corbett family home has been recreated right down to food in the refrigerator thats naturalism.
Open panels, however, suggest the family home can be penetrated at any moment. In short, we are all vulnerable. Most strikingly, the gradual disappearance of familiar family trappings becomes a moving metaphor for the trajectory of grief. You have to find ways to rebuild a life.
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at email@example.com.