RABBIT HOLEBy David Lindsay-Abair
Lakeside Community Theatre
Directors: Dakoda Taylor and David J. Wallis
Stage Manager: Ariana Cox
Assistant Stage Manager: Amber Hegar
Scenic and Lighting Designer: Rustin Rolen
Costume, Make-Up and Hair: Ariana Cox
Property Design: Elise Knox
Sound Design: Victoria Irvine
Becca: Dana Naughton
Izzy: Karen Lefferts
Howie: Benjamin Keegan Arnold
Nat: Kelly Moore Clarkson
Jason: Joel Hashop
Reviewed Performance: 9/20/2019
Reviewed by Mildred Austin, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The tragedy that permeates the characters, particularly Becca and Howie, is the death of their four year old son when he ran into their street after his dog and was struck by a teenage driver who had swerved to avoid the dog and hit the boy. What the audience experiences through Becca, Howie and Becca’s mother, Nat, who also lost a son to a drug overdose, is the way in which each individual copes differently with their feelings of deep grief. Becca’s younger sister, Izzy, provides some of the sparse comic relief as does her mom Nat occasionally..
The loss of a child is considered by many mental health professionals to the “ultimate tragedy” a person can experience. The death brings with it the death of hopes and dreams the parents had for the child. A child dying before a parent is at odds with the universe--an event out of order, out of time. Often the parent experiences as wide range and depth of responses to the death. They often experiences guilt for not being able to protect the child, a feeling they have been robbed of the parenting role that was such a deep and intense experience, and ultimately surviving the death and loss of a child takes a dedication to life. Anger is often a common feeling, especially as in the case of “Danny”, the child of Becca and Howie who died suddently and accidentally eight month prior to our becoming plugged into their journey.
Additional to Howie, Becca, Nat and Izzy, a fifth person inserts himself into the overpowering grief the others--Jason. He is the high school senior who was the driver who hit Danny and killed him. We learn that he was probably totally innocent and it was truly an accident, but he is so guilt ridden and anxious to seek the forgiveness of the parents he finally admits he might have been going” a little fast.” Maybe two or three miles over the speed limit. But he feels bound to accept some blame for the accident. A real unavoidable accident is difficult to accept for all of the characters.
For this production, LCT has created an entire half a house by turning the set longwise from previous productions I have seen there. This allows the set designer to incorporate the kitchen, dining area, living room and Danny’s room on the stage. This arrangement works and certainly brings us into the house of this emotionally suffering family. Lighting is as needed and music is a great contrast to the pervasive angst in the house. Only one suggesting. There is an important scene in which Howie plays a DVD of he and his son. The film is cast on the wall of the set, which works great, except it plays over a picture on the wall. I think much would be added to the moments of the film if the picture could be moved to another location.
This is such a difficult show to bring together. All the characters are experiencing their grief in different ways and are finding it difficult to relate to the others who are on different wavelengths as relating to their different stages in the grief process. The show is all about feelings, which can be difficult to portray and also difficult to accept as an audience member. But, as usual, LCT rises to the occasion. This is such an even, emotionally connected cast there is never a doubt as to where each is processing their loss and in what way. The show is such an indepth exploration and discovery, that it can be a challenge to keep it relevant. But, again, as I have seen here before, this cast knows and accepts their challenge. Dana Naughton as Becca is perfect as the mother who seems challenged to move on. She can’t bear to stop and take in the overall enormity of what has happened. Her method of coping is to not stop and wallow in sadness and loss but to move forward. But Naughton is so merged with Becca I easily began to not differentiate between actor and character. She brings to life Becca as she has cut herself off from emotions and the processes that would help her to heal.
Benjamin Keegan Arnold as Howie is experiencing his grief in a completely different way. He clings to the past, the time when Danny was alive. He is emotionally tied into memories and a way of keeping Danny alive for him. There is anger also, just under the surface and his explosions are so heart wrenching that, again, actor and character merge. Arnold is both sweet, angry, bewildered and trying to pull his life and his family together. His grief is the most obvious is terms of his attendance to things of the past. When Becca accidentally erases the video of Danny, Howie is understandably beside himself, as I could easily identity with. Arnold is bstong in his portrayal of Howie, but mostly he seems angry at everyone.
Karen Lefferts as the “out there” sister Izzy is introduced as a bit of dizzy (Izzy/dizzy--what’s in a name) comic relief and she pulls that off perfectly. However, she maintains her family allegiance when she queries Howie on his interactions with an unknown female she knows he has been accompanying to a bar for drinks. Lefferts comedy timing is right on as is her attack on Howie when she believes he might be cheating on her sister, Becca.
Kelly Moore Clarkson as the child’s grandmother, Nat, IS Nat! She has the hint of the New York dialect and the chutzpah to bring off the New York grandma who is still in the game. She lost a son aso, and the scene in Danny’s bedroom between Becca and Nat is a real tour de force for both! It was at that point and Clarkson’s observation just how everyone feels something different when a child dies.that the sum of the play is pulled together for the audience I believe.
The last character to appear is Jason, played byJoel Hasop. Jason is a high school senior who due to no fault of his own, hit a four year old boy in his car and killed the child. Haspo is very believable in his portrayal of the young man who is responsible for the death of Danny. Hasop convinced me completely of his sincere feeling of guilt and responsibility mixed in with the teenager who doesn’t really have the full emotional understanding of what has happened to him and how it has impacted so many others. Butl Hasop’s portrayal of Jason is son real it is difficult to avoid tears when he folds into himself.
I hope many others will take the challenge of seeing this production. It is emotionally challenging and pulls forth our own ideas and feelings about significant loss and the outcomes on those who experience it. With a very quiet comment, Becca tells Howie “We’ll be fine.” And I believe they will, but I know they aren’t there yet. Grief is a many layered, many leveled experience and all affected enter this Rabbit Hole to a universe where everything is different, where all we know is challenged and all we believe and hold onto is transformed.
Lakeside Community Theatre
6303 Main St.
The Colony, TX 75056
Plays now through October 5, 2019
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.--$12.00/$15.00
Tickets: Call 214-801-4869 or online at www.lctthecolony.com