One of the most cruel and devastating tricks that fate can play on a parent is the loss of a small child. In some cases the parents never come to grips with the reality of it and, as a result, some remain damaged forever.
Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire’s compelling and poignant drama “Rabbit Hole”, sensitively and intelligently directed by Sheridan Cole Crawford, is being presented by the Kentwood Players on the stage of the Westchester Playhouse, in Los Angeles.
The Kentwood Players, one of the oldest community theatres in Los Angeles (60 plus years), is no stranger in presenting powerful and intense dramas to their audiences. They are an award winning theatre organization, recognized by City, County and the State – with proclamations and the awards to prove it.
When director Crawford first read the material, she related to me following the performance “… all sorts of ideas, emotions, and challenges presented themselves” adding “But, I knew I wanted to do this play”. Lucky for the theatre group that she persevered.
The story is an emotional roller-coaster ride of grief, insight, compassion, empathy and hope, centering on the accidental death of Danny, a 4 year-old boy (whom we never see on stage), who was struck and killed by a neighborhood teenage motorist (Kenny Allen) some eight months ago. Danny’s parents Becca (Alison Matizza) and Howie (Harold Dershimer) are struggling, each in their own way, to understand why such a tragic event had to happen to them and their son Danny. In their struggle for closure, the gulf of understanding between them widens. The compelling need to move closer toward one another to begin the healing process is instead, threatening their marriage. Howie accuses Becca of trying to erase Danny from their memories as if he never existed with by decision of wanting to sell their house and move away. She counters with the argument that she needs time to grieve in her own way in order to heal. It’s not an uncommon issue in situations like theirs.
Becca’s younger sister Izzy (Tara Tyson) is an irresponsible, but loving younger sister who is full of life figuratively, as well as, literally. Although unwed, she is pregnant and her condition is a constant reminder to Becca of the unfairness of her situation. Nat (Lois Bostwick) the mother of the sisters is a voice of reason and understanding and helps Howie and Becca with packing and such during the moving process. Nat has been down this road before, losing Arthur, her 30 year-old son to heroin addiction and eventually to suicide.
“Rabbit Hole” is not the “downer story” one would imagine it to be. There are many things in this world that are beyond our comprehension, and playwright Lindsay-Abaire gives his audiences the insight and hope, along with a healthy dose of understanding, to ease the pain. In the hands of the Kentwood Players’ talented cast, this production delivers moments that everyone – parents and those yet to walk down that road – can relate to.
Alison Matizza’s beautifully controlled anguish and grace, under the worst of life’s unfair moments, is most felt in her scenes with Kenny Allen. Allen’s achingly poignant speeches of remorse, is the stuff that brings tears to the eyes of even the most hardened, revenge-driven individual. It’s a wonderfully understated and nuanced performance by a young actor who makes one believe he really knows and understands the depths of despair and the healing process that inevitably follows.
Harold Dershimer nicely walks the thin line between being seen as the misunderstood, long suffering parent vs. a callous, non-caring husband. Tara Tyson’s breezy, but concerned, portrayal as the self-absorbed Izzy, also is nicely drawn. Lois Bostwick’s solid performance, as a worldly but weary mother and grandmother, lends an air of normalcy to a household that is far from it.
In the technical department, Jim Crawford’s cleverly designed functional set is complimented by a mood-inducing lighting design by Richard Potthoff; enriching the play that is lovingly and tenderly directed by Sheridan Cole Crawford.
“Rabbit Hole” at the Westchester Playhouse is a must see production, especially if you live in Los Angeles, and worth the trip for residents of the Coachella Valley who may be planning a trip to LA.
The play performs on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through February 18th. For ticket information and reservations call 310-645-5156.
Photos by Shari Barrett