Review: Rabbit Hole
Written by Elsa Klein
Rabbit Hole, directed by Emma Gylling Mortensen, was a delicate tragedy—a soft performance that just about broke the audiences’ hearts.
The story opens on an argument between two sisters in a simple American kitchen. As Becca (played by Sarah Chamberlain) folds boys clothing, Izzy (played by Katherine Somerby) brags about punching another woman in a bar and then discloses that she is pregnant. A passive but very pointed debate ensues about responsibility, choice, and honesty. These kind of arguments—beginning small about simple things and ending in shouting matches about very big issues—mark the centre of each relationship in the play. Each scene seems to twist a typical, monotonous conversation into an intense and emotional argument about grief.
Becca and her husband Howie (played by Guy Harvey) grapple with the death of their four-year-old son Danny, who eight months ago was tragically hit by a car. While Howie depends on the support of group therapy, Becca refuses to go. While Becca needs to clean the house of Danny’s things and move away, Howie can’t let go of these reminders. Becca and Izzy’s mother, Nat (played by Rachel Augustine) adds another element, as she continues to grieve for her son who took his life eleven years ago—and can’t seem to stop comparing her experience losing a son to her daughter’s. The last relationship explored is between Becca and Jason (played by Martin Caforio), the high school senior who was driving the car that killed Danny.
Dealing with such a heavy script can be incredibly difficult, however director Mortensen and the entire cast and crew solidified an honest and heartfelt performance. They created a brilliant balance between the humour of familial banter—the annoyances of a difficult mother, the daily quarrels over what to get a sister for her birthday—and the deeply cutting weight of emotional trauma. There was a paradoxical tone throughout the play that allowed it to feel real, believable, and even at times comedic. Home-baked goods—demonstrating Becca’s maternal and nurturing spirit—were always presented right before a particularly intense conversation or argument. A comedic quip from Izzy always brought a moment of comedic relief after too much tension.
To be truly commended is actor Somerby for a brilliant and compelling portrayal of Izzy. Another special highlight includes the sound and music design (by Paul Lancaster), making transitions between scenes add to the tone of the play.
It’s clear that the cast and crew of Rabbit Hole have been wholly consumed with the relationships between Becca, Howie, Izzy, Nat, and Jason. There was—across the board, through every aspect on stage and off—a commitment to telling this story, and a respect for the seriousness of its themes. Though an exhausting and heavy play, the performance was compelling and did justice to a truly beautiful script.