Drama and comedy mix in play

In David Lindsey Abaire’s award-winning play Rabbit Hole, Becca and Howie, a grieving mother and father, face tragic consequences eight months after their young son’s death. The two are stuck in a woeful cycle — a constant battle to cope, understand and love.

But with visits from Becca’s impetuous sister, Izzy, her rambling mother, Nat and a schoolboy named Jason, the pair is stuck trying to define its future in a world of uncertainty.

The play premiered in 2005 and won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007. It was also recently adapted into a movie to be released by the end of this year, starring Nicole Kidman.

Directed by Robert Bailey, USC’s production of Rabbit Hole shines as a deeply moving and heartfelt tale.

“[Viewers] will find themselves emotionally involved with people they’ve never met,” Bailey said.

But the play is not simply a contemporary drama; comedy strikes in almost every scene, breaking the tension of a previously serious moment.

“[Viewers] will laugh,” Bailey said.

Jordan C. Walsh and Nicholas Tagliarini are excellent as the heartbroken Becca and Howie. Their chemistry as husband and wife is believable in all aspects of their performance — from petty arguments to shared sorrow.

Walsh and Tagliarini act strongest as a pair. Nearly every scene in which they are alone draws the audience further into the minds and workings of Becca and Howie. Becca is not simply a clean freak; Howie is not as confident as he pretends to be. Their fights are so passionate and realistic that they are almost uncomfortable to watch.

The rest of the cast radiates as much talent as  Walsh and Tagliarini.

Connor Kelly-Eiding plays Becca’s childish and irresponsible sister, Izzy. Her performance is consistently strong. Her facial expressions, from sly smiles to furrowed eyebrows, are the most impressive of any of the actors.

As Nat, Madeline Hanson succeeds in being both funny and gentle. Her unique gestures — from pounding on a table to the way she holds a glass of alcohol — add a considerable amount of credibility to her character. On top of that, Hanson’s ability to adequately mimic an old woman’s voice is worth noting.

Ironically, the best performance comes from one of the smallest characters. Robert Atchinson plays teenager Jason superbly. Atchinson’s delivery of a monologue — his first scene in the play — is highly impressive. His quivery and fluid voice animates the character and allows the audience to sympathize with Jason’s youthful innocence.

But what makes this story relatable — especially to students?

“So many people, so many women, so many men, deal with [grief] every day,” Walsh said. “I hope that it’s a story that sticks with people.”

And how could it not? Rabbit Hole is not simply a story of a grieving family; it is the unfolding of a snapshot in life. The show epitomizes the repercussions of a brief yet poignant experience and how different people choose to confront these scars.

It asks the age-old question: How are people expected to cope with the death of a loved one? Every person can relate to themes like these, which is what ultimately makes Rabbit Hole such a powerful display. Each character is not simply a character but a human being undergoing dramatic change.

“Characters are similar in ways because they’re all humans,” Tagliarini said.

Rabbit Hole might evoke tears, laughter and even shock, but the experience of getting to know these characters is an entertaining journey.

“I think the cast has a real eagerness to share the story,” Walsh said.

Rabbit Hole will continue its run at the Scene Dock Theater until Oct. 3.