Wednesday, November 24, 2010

In Which Trai Reviews 'Rabbit Hole'

The Book: Rabbit Hole: A Play (Winner: 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama)

The Author: David Lindsay-Abaire

How I Found It: The forthcoming movie version with Aaron Eckhart and Nicole Kidman (trailer here) caught my eye because, well, I love Aaron Eckhart!

The Review: Every time I read a play, a good play, I always think to myself that I should read more of them. And I most certainly believe that I should; this one took me just under an hour to read, and sometimes I just need something short! This was the perfect companion for a bus ride length-wise, although I should really learn that reading emotional works in the view of the public is perhaps not wise!

As I mentioned above, I first heard of this play when the news came out about Aaron Eckhart's presence in the film version. Having read this, I'm really excited to see what that will look like. It should be a pretty meaty role for Nicole Kidman, and seeing as she hand-picked Eckhart to play her husband, I'm confident he can do no wrong.

This play, 157 pages long, is simple but highly affecting. It is a glimpse into a few months in the lives of Becca and Howie Corbett, a couple grieving the loss of their four-year-old son, Danny, a few months before. Danny was killed when he chased the family dog into the street and was subsequently hit by a young driver, Jason. Howie has found solace by going to a support group for grieving parents and secretly watching video tapes of Danny. Becca, meanwhile, is doing all she can to pack away remnants of their son--donating his clothes, hiding away his books and toys, and resenting friends who haven't made the effort to keep in touch after the loss.

Howie is trying to reconnect with his wife, but Becca's brash relations begin to get in the way. Izzy, Becca's sister, has just announced that she's pregnant, and Nat, her mother, insists on comparing the loss of her own son, Becca's brother, to Becca's entirely different loss. As we witness all of the characters interacting and not interacting, speaking and choosing not to speak, we get a sense of their grief and conflicted feelings.

Of course, all of this is heavy material, but I felt that it was handled very well and that it never became too much or too maudlin. In an author's note after the play, Lindsay-Abaire stresses that there should be no histrionics, no added emotion. Becca and Howie only cry once apiece, and that's it--that's all that's needed, really. It does an excellent job of showing the different ways in which people grieve, and how that can become complicated, especially between two significant others. I'd love to see this performed onstage, let alone on film.

I really enjoyed the play's natural flow and how it really captured the way people just talk. I think it's the most realistic-sounding play I've read so far. Almost every scene consists of straight conversation, and Lindsay-Abaire captured those rhythms really well. There's no stilted dialogue, no awkward phrasing that sounds as though a speechwriter gave it a once-over--it sounds exactly like it would if you were eavesdropping on some neighbors. Given how much I love dialogue (see my previous review for an example of how I rip books to shreds when dialogue sounds off!), this play was like a present wrapped up in a nice bow.

I liked the dynamic between Becca and Howie the best. Becca can't understand what Howie gets out of the support group; Howie can't understand why Becca seems to be intent on erasing Danny, intentionally or unintentionally. Their conversations were, as they should be, the standout of the play and made for the most emotional scenes, the ones where I teared up. The play touches on whether a person can possibly not be "grieving enough," and on the resentment one person can feel when another's method of grieving is pushed on them. (Becca isn't religious and rails against the support group for this reason.) I found myself perfectly able to see both sides of their arguments, which is quite a feat. Becca and Howie's halting attempts at reconnecting were well done. The subplots of the supporting cast--Nat, Izzy, and Jason--all made for interesting scenes and added to the "slice of life" feel of the play.

I can understand why this one won the Pulitzer. Anyone who has grieved a loved one can get something out of this play and think, "I've been there." I know I did. There's no real resolution, but the play ends with a slightly hopeful note. In that way, the play mirrors life. Maybe Becca and Howie will never be able to get over their loss, but they can just push forward and hope for tomorrow. Even if I feel it ended at the right spot, I couldn't help but wish it was longer when I reached the end. I really did enjoy reading about these characters, and the material, as heavy as it was, really made me think about the nature of grief. Highly recommended to readers of drama and those with an interest in the subject matter or the film version.

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