Theater Review: Rabbit Hole—the story of a young family’s loss

In the last few weeks, two plays dealing with death were on my agenda. Tuesdays With Morrie, so beautifully done by Artists’ Ensemble, focuses on the end of life and portrays the supportive relationship between Morrie and Mitch. Rabbit Hole, playing at the Goodman in Chicago, examines the lives of Howie (Daniel Cantor) and his wife Becca (Lia D. Mortenson) following the tragic death of their 4-year-old son. This 30-something couple living the typical lifestyle of suburbanites has fewer emotional resources to cope with their loss.

Becca denies. Removing every trace of her son’s existence, her solution is to forget. In direct opposition, Howie replays the videos of the happy times spent with his son. The result—the destruction of their relationship. To complicate matters, Becca’s sister Izzy (Amy Warren) becomes pregnant, and their mother Nat (Mary Ann Thebus) constantly talks of the death of her husband and son.

The contrast between these two plays is evident. Even more interesting, Cantor recently played Mitch in Tuesdays With Morrie. The entire cast performs well, but a feeling of disillusionment gave the evening a dark side.

The set with the child’s room above also became a part of the aura of loss. Chasing his dog into the street, the son was killed by a teenage driver, Jason (Jurgen Hooper). He, too, is deeply affected and tries to assuage his guilt by developing a relationship with the grieving couple. There are moments of comedy. As in every tragedy, we find some humor.

The title of Rabbit Hole is a stretch—the emptiness of loss, a child’s storybook, The Runaway Bunny and Alice’s disappearance down the rabbit hole in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, are the references.

Rabbit Hole plays through April 15, and tickets may be obtained by calling the Goodman at (312) 443-3800.

from the April 4-10, 2007, issue

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