Port To­bacco Play­ers ex­plore grief, re­cov­ery in play open­ing Satur­day

‘Rab­bit Hole’ ex­plores fam­ily’s search for ‘new nor­mal’ af­ter loss

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @JamieACIndyNews

“Rab­bit Hole,” the new­est drama to be per­formed by the Port To­bacco Play­ers, ex­plores the af­ter­math of a par­ent’s worst nightmare, as one fam­ily strug­gles to cope with the loss of a child in a tragic car ac­ci­dent and their at­tempts to es­tab­lish a “new nor­mal” and con­tinue on with their lives.

“It’s about em­pa­thy, and about hope. You can get out of bed. You can get to your ‘new nor­mal.’ You can get back to work. Or you can start again,” said di­rec­tor Heather Bauer. “It’s about the dif­fer­ent stages of grief, and the fam­ily mem­bers who are all just tr ying to cope.”

The play, writ­ten by David Lind­say-Abaire, is be­ing per­formed by the Port To­bacco Play­ers at its theater at 508 Charles Street in La Plata for three week­ends be­gin­ning Satur­day and end­ing June 5. The per­for­mance be­gins at 8 p.m. on Fri­days and Satur­days and 3 p.m. on Sun­days. Tick­ets are $18 for gen­eral ad­mis­sion, and $15 for stu­dents, se­niors and mil­i­tary per­son­nel.

“Rab­bit Hole,” win­ner of a 2007 Pulitzer Prize, fol­lows the story of mar­ried cou­ple Becca and Howie, whose son was killed eight months pre­vi­ous while chas­ing the fam­ily dog into the road, as they grieve each in their own fash­ion and strug­gle to re­con­nect af­ter the tragedy.

Melissa Gilpin-Ball plays Becca and said the char­ac­ter is the ex­act op­po­site of how she would pic­ture a griev­ing mother.

“She is strong, and is will­ing to move on, and I think is com­fort­able enough in her own skin to move on in the way that she feels is most fit,” Gilpin-Ball said. “For me, hav­ing two chil­dren, that kind of loss is unimag­in­able; I don’t know how I’d get out of bed, and she man­ages to go on with life.”

Dav Tim­mer­mann said hav­ing a nine-month-old daugh­ter him­self in­flu­enced how he played Howie.

“Un­der­stand­ing what it’s like to be a par­ent and hav­ing those el­e­ments be such a huge part of your life, and if it dis­ap­peared, there’d be this huge void,” Tim­mer­mann said. “I like his per­spec­tive on the mat­ter. He’s still mourn­ing and griev­ing, but he’s moved a bit on with his life and try­ing to get on to the next stage in his life.”

The story also fol­lows Becca’s sis­ter Izzy, now preg­nant, and their mother, Nat, who lost her son to sui­cide 11 years prior.

Becky Kuhn said that play­ing Izzy was a stretch for her, as the care­free, re­bel­lious sis­ter is very dif­fer­ent from her own per­son­al­ity, but she en­joyed the way Izzy de­vel­ops.

“She grows up so much over the show.” Kuhn said. “Izzy starts out as the big­gest mess and ends up as the smartest one in the room.”

Allison Turkel said Nat seems like a flighty char­ac­ter, but shows hid­den depths as the play pro­gresses.

“She’s lost her son, and she’s liv­ing with that. And now she’s lost her grand­son, and it’s like her grief for her grand­son, there’s no room for it. But she also has the love for her daugh­ters, and her love for her son-in-law,” Turkel said. “At first glance, she seems like she’s rough and funny and drink­ing, but she’s really a com­plex kind of char­ac­ter.”

The teen driver who struck their son, Ja­son, also strug­gles with his guilt over the ac­ci­dent and seeks to con­nect with the par­ents through a science fiction story he wrote about al­ter­nate uni­verses, the source of the ti­tle.

The ti­tle could also be taken to mean the hole the char­ac­ters at­tempt to climb out of as they at­tempt to re­build their lives.

Bauer said the play man­ages to in­ject mo­ments of hu­mor into the play in show­ing the in­ter­re­la­tion­ships between the char­ac­ters.

“You wouldn’t think there’d be laugh­ter, but there is, it’s funny,” Bauer said. “For those peo­ple who are a lit­tle afraid of drama, par­tic­u­larly some­thing of this na­ture, who think it’s go­ing to be a to­tal tear-jerker, and it’s not. It’s show­ing the dif­fer­ent dy­nam­ics of the fam­ily mem­bers, and how every­body is try­ing to move for­ward.”

STAFF PHO­TOS BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Dav Tim­mer­mann as Howie, Melissa Gilpin-Ball as Becca, Becky Kuhn as Izzy and Allison Turkel as Nat in the Port To­bacco Play­ers pro­duc­tion of “Rab­bit Hole,” which opens Satur­day.

Dav Tim­mer­mann as Howie and Melissa Gilpin-Ball as Becca in the Port To­bacco Play­ers pro­duc­tion of “Rab­bit Hole,” which opens Satur­day.

Melissa Gilpin-Ball as Becca and Dav Tim­mer­mann as Howie in the Port To­bacco Play­ers pro­duc­tion of “Rab­bit Hole,” which opens Satur­day.

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