REVIEW: Rabbit Hole explores themes of loss, healing

On Thursday, the Aeneid Theatre Company performed a rehearsal for Rabbit Hole, a Pulitzer prize-winning play written by David Lindsay-Abaire. The story follows a family in the
heart-wrenching aftermath of a tremendous tragedy and engages the audience with not only its emotional content but also its unfiltered tale of grief, loss and healing.

The ATC is a student theater company dedicated to producing non-musical plays on campus. Each year, the group typically produces three non-musical plays spanning classical, contemporary and alternative theater genres. This past year, ATC has presented two widely successful productions, EQUUS and The Miser. Rabbit Hole is no exception to the company’s dedication to success — it is a phenomenal production to conclude the troupe’s artistic season.

Rabbit Hole originally premiered on Broadway in 2006 and  was consequently nominated for several Tony Awards, including Best Play. Since the Tonys brought the play nationwide recognition, it has been produced around the country, from Los Angeles to Philadelphia.

ATC’s production stars a small cast of Samantha Kofford, Ben Hirschhorn, Reese Brucker, Kimia Yazdi and Juan Duenas. The play was directed by Rachel Russell, a junior majoring in theater with an emphasis in acting. Russell expressed that while acting has always been her passion, she has a unique love for directing. Her artistic direction was stunning — she managed to capture the emotions of the piece in an array of creative aspects.

“I really wanted to draw people into this space,” Russell said. “That was one of the most important things for me: I wanted people to walk in and feel like they were in another world.”

For instance, one of the most striking details of Rabbit Hole is its inventive set design. Before the show, a series of videos showcasing an individual family are projected onto a large screen above the stage as the audience files in, taking their seats. The videos are complemented by somber, instrumental music, which effectively and compellingly sets the tone for the production.

These projections are strategically embedded throughout the show to enforce the dramatic elements of the play. In one scene, a character is watching home videos on the television, which are projected for the audience to watch simultaneously on the large screen. This artistic choice is a powerful narrative tool that magnifies the emotion of the scene. By engaging the audience in the plot itself, Russell allows the viewers to grieve alongside the characters — a technique that heightened the play’s overall captivation.

“The tapes are a critical part of the story,” Russell said, referencing the on-screen projections. “I thought that was a unique, beautiful, sensitive way to bring people into the space.”

Rabbit Hole was a extremely cohesive play for viewers.
Scene-to-scene transitions were seamless: Instrumental music filled the silence while characters moved into their next positions. The transitional music kept the audience invested throughout the entire piece, as it reinforced the drama and tension held within the play.

Despite its structural breaks,  Rabbit Hole poignantly portrays some of the most difficult emotions of the human experience, especially the sadness, anger and guilt parents face when losing a child. It captures these emotions beautifully and leaves the audience members with much to contemplate after the show’s final scene.

“While it is a difficult piece to watch, I hope that we dealt with the issues at hand with sensitivity,” Russell said. “That was really the goal.”

The play will run at the Cammilleri Hall at the Brain & Creativity Institute on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and 11 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets can be reserved on the ATC website. A $5 donation is suggested at the door.