‘Rabbit Hole’ takes viewers through pain, grief to hope

Audience members will want to bring a box of tissues with them to the latest performance at the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Kelley Theatre.

“Rabbit Hole,” which opened March 5 through Stuttgart’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Entertainment Branch, presents an emotional, sometimes painful, look at death and grieving.

But, through their tears, viewers may glimpse a vision of hope and healing.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning play, by David Lindsay-Abaire, focuses on Howie and Becca, a husband and wife struggling to deal with the aftermath of their 4-year-old son Danny’s accidental death.

“It’s a brilliant play,” said Director Richard Roberts. “I think the play shows how adaptable the human psyche is — how you can bounce back from the most crushing things.”

The play also ingeniously allows the audience moments of relief during a very emotional show, he added.

“There is also a lot of humor, a lot of wit,” Roberts said. “There is an underlying feeling of grief, but there is also great warmth to it.”

“Rabbit Hole” is also one of the theater group’s entries in this year’s Tournament of Plays Topper Awards.

The plot weaves Becca and Howie’s struggles to regain a sense of normalcy with the lives of Izzy, Becca’s sister; Nat, Becca’s mother; and Jason, the teenage boy involved in the accident that killed their son.

In the absence of dancing, singing or elaborate sets, the show spotlights the actors’ abilities.

Liz Winkler, who plays Becca, finds it is tough to portray a character who ignores her pain.

“The way my character deals with emotions is to shut them out completely; otherwise, it would be unbearable for her,” Winkler said. “I’m curious to see whether the audience finds any sympathy with her at all — how many people can relate.”

Watching Becca and Howie live through this tragedy is an opportunity for audience members to learn, Winkler added.

“This is for people who want to work things through,” she said. “It’s always tough … but it can be very cathartic.”

The subject matter makes it all the more important for the cast of five to deliver any comic lines with gusto. “Hopefully, the audience will know that they’re allowed to laugh,” she said.

T.J. Downing, an Air Force major assigned to U.S. European Command, plays Howie. He said playing a character with so much grief is almost unbearable at times. “It is painful to act,” he said.

However, the show won’t leave audience members wading through the sorrow, he added. 

“It ends with a kernel of hope,” Downing said. “It’s evocative. I think it will affect people past the play.”

“Rabbit Hole” is rated PG-13 for content and some language, and not recommended for young children.

Remaining show times include March 12, 13, 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. and March 14 and 21 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, call 421-3258/3055/civ. 0711-729-3258/3055.