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BWW Review: Cadence Theatre's RABBIT HOLE Examines Life After Tragedy

Photo by Jason Collins

"Things just aren't nice anymore." People have different coping mechanisms for grief, a message that is profoundly on display in Cadence Theatre's production of David Lindsay Abaire's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama RABBIT HOLE.

Howie (Duke Lafoon) and Becca (Chris Lindsay-Abaire) Corbett are still reeling in pain eight months after a car tragically hit and killed their four-year-old son. They express their heartache in very different ways, which puts clear separation between the couple. Howie plays back home movies, while Becca packs away all of their son's belongings and memories. Becca's carefree and immature younger sister, Izzy (Grey Garrett), has just announced her pregnancy. Becca refuses to take advice from her outspoken mother, Nat (Jody Smith Strickler), who shares her grief and wants to be there for her daughter. Now, at the most inappropriate time, Jason (Tyler Stevens), the young driver who killed the Corbett's son, is determined to enter their lives.

Somewhere towards the middle of the searing production, as Howie is trying to understand why his wife won't show or share her grief, Becca snaps, "You're not in a better place than I am, you're just in a different place. And that sucks that we can't be there for each other right now, but that's just the way it is." This line demonstrates the careful restraint that is seen throughout Lindsay-Abaire's powerful script.

Rich Mason's impressive set establishes the tone as audiences walking in realize the fictional piece of work taking place in the Theatre Gym could be anyone's real nightmare. The two-story habitable set is remarkable and commands the audience's attention. Complemented by beautiful contemporary paintings contributed by members of her family, Lara Koplin's set-dressings add another layer of realism. Mike Jarrett's lighting design makes use of carefully placed recessed lighting in Mason's set and uses lighting tricks to emanate a television screen to great effect. Jesse Senechal's sound design is effective, and Sarah Grady's costumes, from punk-rock-tattered jeans to stylish business suits, are well selected.

Under the careful direction of Anna Johnson, an impressive ensemble mostly delivers. Grey Garrett is picture-perfect as the ditzy Izzy, and Jody Smith Strickler embodies the outspoken, protective mother. Tyler Stevens gives an adept performance as the awkward young driver. Chris Lindsay-Abaire's Becca is subdued. While it's highlighted, audiences may not feel the depth of her grief.

Duke Lafoon's versatility is showcased through his polished and emotional performance, chock-full of nuance. His Howie becomes perfectly unhinged when the home-video memories he clings to so tightly are permanently erased.

Cadence Theatre's production of RABBIT HOLE is beautifully designed and offers captivating performances. The show runs through May 20 at Virginia Repertory Theatre.

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From This Author Jeremy Bustin