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Pulitzer-Winning Play Comes to Newport as Falcon Tackles "Rabbit Hole"

On a picture perfect day in the suburbs, Becca Corbett is standing in her kitchen folding children’s clothing.

But the picture is a long way from perfect – Becca (Tara Williams) is folding the clothes of her four year-old son Danny, her only child, who was hit by a teenaged driver and died. As they grieve, Becca, and husband Howie (Ted Weil), have suddenly descended into a strange new reality.

The Rabbit Hole is David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize-winning, comedy-filled tragedy on stage at Falcon Theatre in Newport March 25-April 8. Falcon co-founder Weil says the Broadway hit has been on the Falcon radar for almost a decade.

Williams and director Tracy Schoster talk about the play – starting with the meaning of the title. Is this rabbit hole a shelter from predators and a haven from the elements – or a nod to the disruptive world created by Lewis Carroll for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?

“A rabbit hole by definition is a difficult state or situation,” Schoster muses. “Metaphysically speaking, a long and winding exploratory path.  

“The path may have started the same for both Becca and Howie with the loss of their child, but they have taken decidedly different (routes) to deal with their grief. Will they come back to the same path? That's for the audience to decide.”

Williams adds, “Becca and Howie deal with their grief completely differently. Howie wants everything about Danny around him all the time. He wants the pictures and toys and videos to comfort him. Becca needs to remove all traces of Danny because she thinks that will help her. She doesn't understand that it's not his things that remind her of him. He is in her soul.”

Schoster says, “I believe one of the telling lines in the play is towards the end of Act 1, when Becca says to Howie, ‘You're not in a better place than I am, you're just in a different place. And that sucks, that we can't be there for each other right now...’”  

As the play traces the physical and emotional aftermath of Danny’s death, it examines Becca and Howie’s disintegrating relationship; Becca's mother and sister, and even young driver Jason grapple with grief, guilt, and inevitable blame as they attempt to make sense of the tragedy.

Both women call the play “a slice of life,” but Lindsay-Abaire is best-known for his plays’ off-kilter approach to real-life that make them impossible to forget.

That includes his acute sense of comedy – which is just right, even when it seems wrong.

Williams says that’s part of life. “Even though this family is dealing with a tremendous tragedy, they are still living. They still function as a family. I come from a family of much love and laughter. We often say we can truly have a good time anywhere, even the funeral home. Life is messy and sometimes painful. But, it is still life.”

“Comedy and tragedy are very closely related,” observes Schoster, who is a Falcon veteran of 25 years. “Finding humor in their grief helps us to more acutely feel their pain -- trying to find a light within the darkness of their tragedy.”

And, she notes, the laughs are “absolutely necessary for the audience - and actors - to be able to breathe every once in a while.”

Rabbit Hole, through April 8. Falcon Theatre, 636 Monmouth Ave., Newport. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Tickets $20, students $15. Thursdays $5 of tickets. Reservations and information: falcontheater.net

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts

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