Vol. 16, No. 20 – June 28 – July 11, 2023 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Drawn down the Rabbit Hole

Everyone deals with grief in their own way and in their own time. How one family handles a particularly affecting death is the center of the Santa Paula Theater Center’s current production of “Rabbit Hole” by David Lindsay-Abaire. This sensitive work garnered a Pulitzer Prize in 2007.

Lindsay-Abaire’s characters are instantly recognizable as members of one’s own family. Each carries their own perspective ranging from anger to introspection to humor. It all works to highlight humanities ‘coping methods and how disparate they can be in effectiveness.

There is no right or wrong in dealing with loss. There is only the reality of how each individual processes their grief.

Skillfully directed by Taylor Kasch, the ensemble of highly capable actors takes the audience on a journey into a dark subject that is not often brought to the forefront.

Becca (Jessi May Stevenson) and Howie (Ron Feltner) have lost their four-year old son in an unfortunate accident. Any loss is devastating and this one threatens to shatter everyone involved. Stevenson is adept at the emotional changes required of her character and imbues her with an immediately likeable, sympathetic persona. Feltner gives the masculine counterpoint solid footing in his retreat from acceptance.

Becca’s sister Izzy (Rosie Gordon) brings her own life-changing issues to the table, further complicating Becca and Howie’s ability to cope. Gordon adds just the right touch of lightness to balance her sister’s negativity.

The girls’ mother Nat (Cynthis Killion) brings an earthy, if somewhat skewed, framework to her interactions, as she is still grieving over the loss of her son some 11 years ago. Grief has no timeline and for some, no end. Although Becca finds the constant comparison to her own loss a relentless source of irritation, she also recognizes that the feeling of loss is one that becomes an integral part of a person. Killion provides not only comic relief, but also a useful, pragmatic viewpoint.

Attempting to cope in his own way is Jason (Ryan Garces), a young man caught up in the drama by unfortunate and unavoidable circumstance. He blames himself for the accident and is reluctant to be absolved, although not for lack of trying.

Each scene brings forth another element of the grieving process and how one person’s viewpoint affects those of the others in the circle. This play will directly affect anyone who has suffered loss of a loved one in its stark approach to the arc of the grieving process. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross introduced the stages of grief years ago. It is not uncommon for these stages to occur in random order as outside influences are present.

This extraordinary cast weaves the delicate story in ways that are all-encompassing. They take us down the rabbit hole of grief, up to the top, and once again plunge to the depths. It is quite a journey and one that everyone will take at some point. This production is not to be missed. Adult themes and language.

Rabbit Hole continues through July 30 at the Santa Paula Theater Center. www.santapaulatheatercenter.org or (805) 525-4645.

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