I still remember the first time I ever watched Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet. In the last scene, Juliet is guffawing in a very pained way over Romeo’s dead body. I laughed. I cupped my hand over my mouth after I did, surprised at my own coldness. Her grief seemed so real, and I, like many, am one of those folks who doesn’t know how to respond to those that are grieving. It’s one of things you never know how to respond to — it’s just... uncomfortable. {mosimage}
    If you’ve dealt with losing a loved one, you know all the “sorrys” and the condolences from concerned family, friends don’t really amount to anything. How you wished the people would just go away and stop asking how you are. And then you remember what it’s like to be on the other side, and that their intentions are good, and they just desperately want to help, but don’t have the right words to say, and you forgive them.
    Rabbit Hole, by David Lindsay-Abaire showcases both sides of that grief — the griever and the consoler — for two-and-a-half hours, minus the intermission. If you wince at grief and have a hard time “coping,” this is not the play for you. If, however, you love delving into the human psyche, (ahem, myself) delve away. 
The play starts with delightfully funny Izzy (Paige Collins) recounting a rather raucous bar encounter to her sister, Becca (Rhonda Brocki). Becca ends up chastising Izzy, telling her she needs to get her “shit together.” Izzy gets defensive, and makes an offhand comment about how it has been really tough for her to get it together since Danny died. We learn that Danny was Becca’s four year old son, who died in a blameless and unfortunate accident. Izzy just acknowledged the rather large elephant in the room, which remains throughout the play. Danny might as well be listed as a character — for his absence is just as much a character as Izzy is with her sarcastic ways.
    The play paints a portrait of the grieving family realistically and accurately. The father, Howie (Gary Clayton), just wants to move forward, make love to his wife and return to normal, but later realizes he might have just been showing a brave face for the family and himself. The mother, Becca, is a tiny woman full of grieving spite, anger, love and pastry making. The sister, Izzy, offers comic relief with her mess-of-a-ife and baby on the way. And lastly, the mother, Nat (Joyce Lipe) talks a lot, trying to fill up the empty space her grandson left, to help her own daughter deal with the grief, the grief she has already experienced with the loss of her own son, all the while being hugely entertaining.
    As this portrait is realistic and accurate with no glossy overcoat, we see the family share funny, sad and angry moments — idle and amusing chit-chat about the Kennedy’s, tearful encounters over lemon bars, and tense arguments about VHS tapes. Each actor in this play really deserves a hand. It’s easy to make grief a soap opera, and thankfully, there is no soap opera here. Each actor’s journey with grief is authentic.    
The superb director of this fine cast, Evan Bridenstine, described it best when he said, “Rabbit Hole is pure Lindsay-Abraire, a mixture of laughter and pain that creates hope without sentimentality. This is good stuff, but it’s far more dynamic than I’d expect a meditation to be.”
    Come check out Rabbit Hole, playing at the Gilbert Theater through April 20. Call 678-7186 for tickets and show times or visit www.GilbertTheater.com. You’re likely to walk away from this play being the most comfortable at being uncomfortable you’ve ever felt. And if, like many, you console yourself with food, don’t fret, the Gilbert is offering Carrot Cake after the show.
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