“Rabbit Hole” hits home

The play explores grief in all its messy configurations.

Kelly Holm, Reporter

Hamline Theatre debuted “Rabbit Hole” on Friday, Mar. 2. Featuring a cast of five, the drama depicts a young couple grappling with the death of Danny, their four-year-old son. “Rabbit Hole” bears little resemblance to the Lewis Carroll novel from which it gained its title. Unlike Alice in Wonderland, “Rabbit Hole” takes place in a real locale and features problems faced by real people, yet the literary allusion makes sense in that grief, much like Wonderland, is a sudden shift from what life was like before.

Bereavement, in all its various manifestations, is difficult for both mourners and observers to fully understand. Even people grieving the same loss, such as main characters Becca, played by sophomore Grace Busse, and Howie, played by senior Robby Miller, can struggle to comprehend why the other has different ways of mourning than they do. Becca prefers to hide memories of Danny from her sight, while Robby constantly watches videos of him and revels in reminders of his existence.

Grief is often an experience that people must face without warning, and its trials are unlike those accompanying more mundane problems. Suddenly everyone, including those you hold closest, treats you differently, and your feelings resemble a roller coaster. Yet just as Alice is awakened from her dream-world back into real life, Becca, Howie and their family slowly gain closure, all the while acknowledging that the pain will never fully subside.

Junior Tei Ellgen exudes a spectacular performance as Nat, Becca’s mother, adopting a gruff-yet-knowing tone of voice that made the character’s age easily believable. Constantly distracted on tangents, Nat peppers the somber atmosphere with wisecracks like “If they had to go to work like normal people, most of those Kennedys would still be alive!”

She relates to Becca and Howie’s grief by comparing it to her own for her late son Arthur. While the show explores Nat’s grief for Arthur at great length, one cannot help but wish Becca would have acknowledged her own more- he was, after all, Becca’s brother. Yet Becca and her younger sister, Izzy, played by sophomore Hannah Coleman, do not respond to the constant mentions of him with anything more than annoyance.

The play subtly utilizes irony in that at its beginning, Izzy is the irresponsible, childish one, to whom Becca is always giving advice, yet she must quickly grow up due to her unexpected pregnancy. By the end, she is the one guiding Becca and Howie on how to move forward with their lives.

Another poignant moment is the appearance of Jason, played by sophomore Nick Hill, the teenage driver responsible for Danny’s death. While Howie refuses to see Jason, Becca takes a quick liking to him and seeks higher understanding into his life, a vital step towards coming to terms with the accident.

Filled with imperfect yet well-intentioned characters, “Rabbit Hole” manages humor in the midst of trauma. Upcoming performances will be on Mar. 8, 9 and 10, at 7:30 p.m. at Anne Simley Theatre.