Grief and anger in 'Rabbit Hole'

  • Article by: WILLIAM RANDALL BEARD , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 14, 2013 - 6:03 PM

The Pulitzer-winning play surveys parents devastated by the sudden loss of their son.

Becca (Elena Giannetti) and Howie (Ron Ravensborg) deal with the aftermath of their 4-year-old son’s death.

Photo: Theatre in the Round

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David Lindsay-Abaire's play "Rabbit Hole" is not the kind of raw drama that one usually expects to see at Theatre in the Round. The play may have won a Pulitzer Prize, but TRP's production too often amplifies the play's obvious weaknesses, even under the capable direction of David Coral.

"Rabbit Hole" tells the story of Becca and Howie Corbett, whose 4-year-old son died when he ran out into traffic and was hit by a car. The play opens eight months after, so it doesn't chronicle the immediate ferocity of the tragedy. It picks up the characters after they have settled into the miasma of ongoing grief.

Peter W. Mitchell's strong set gives a vivid sense of the family's comfortable home, while also suggesting their fractured world, breached by the son's bedroom shrine. Coral successfully establishes the characters and the complex family dynamics.

As played by Elena Giannetti, Becca is a woman trying desperately to regain control of her life and especially her anger. Having recently lost a family member myself, just as suddenly and unexpectedly, her rage rings perfectly true. But it's too unrelenting. A little vulnerability to balance the barely suppressed emotion would have been nice.

Ron Ravensborg has moments of genuine pathos as Howie. But he fades into the background against Giannetti's intensity. Howie's more openly emotional grieving sometimes sounds whiny.

Part of the problem lies in the script. Its navigation of the grief process is incomplete. There are some truly powerful scenes, most notably when Becca meets with the teenage driver who hit her son (strongly played by Kenny Martin II), and out of guilt, he seeks blame rather than absolution. But they are disconnected and don't build sufficiently upon one another.

The playwright does not earn his ambiguous resolution; it still seems to come out of nowhere. And as a result, the ending is not completely satisfying.

There were strong scenes, as in the couple's breakdown at the end of the first act, that brought tears. And Rachel Finch and Linda Sue Anderson, as Becca's sister and mother, add a degree of irreverent humor that brightens the darkness. But the production can only be considered a qualified success.

William Randall Beard writes regularly about music and theater.

  • 'RABBIT HOLE'

    Who: By David Lindsay-Abaire. Directed by David Coral.

    When: 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Ends Feb. 3.

    Where: Theatre in the Round, 245 Cedar Av., Mpls.

    Tickets: $22, 612-333-3010, www.theatreintheround.org.

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