How do you cope with a pain most people can't even conceive? How do you mourn the death of your young son? And when you know it was a senseless accident that took his life, and when there's no target for blame, where does your anger go?
David Lindsay-Abaire won a Pulitzer exploring these questions in Rabbit Hole, and it's not hard to see why. It is a masterpiece of human emotion; raw dialogue coupled with a share of humor, the way life is.
Produced as part of a series of events on compassion by the School of Arts and Communication, Pacific Lutheran University's staging of this powerful piece succeeds on a level somewhat higher than one might expect from student performers. Seniors Kate Howland and Jordan Paul Tjarks Beck portray as Becca and Howie, parents of 4-year-old Danny, who has perished in an accident some months before.
Each has a method for dealing with the horrendous weight of grief. Howie attends group therapy and clings to artifacts of memory - a home video, Danny's dog, a refrigerator's worth of paintings. Becca seems desperate to push away the constant reminders scattered throughout their home, including the home itself.
Howland and Beck present a powerfully human portrait of these divergent reactions. Small actions force great divides between a husband and wife who remember what it was like to be in love, but have lost so much common ground in their emotional drift that they are unable to dig each other out of their independent heartache.
Rabbit Hole also provides an opportunity to further showcase the flexibility of the freshly-built Studio Theater at PLU. After The Fantasticks launched the space in minimalist fashion, using space and lighting to shape a few simple props, Rabbit Hole features a painstakingly detailed, wall-to-wall static set of the home, complete with kitchen, living room and second-story bedroom.
The set, along with the script and the performances of the entire cast, keep the show grounded in a sense of firm reality. Rabbit Hole doesn't strive to be a fable of hope or a portrait of melodramatic, tragic despair. It is simply the reality of a family struggling to find its way through the circumstances of life, and that is why it succeeds so well.
March 16-17 at 7:30 p.m., March 18 at 2 p.m.
tickets for student works can be purchased at the door
Pacific Lutheran University - Studio Theater
1010 122nd St. S., Tacoma, 253.535.7325