David Lindsay-Abaire (don’t sneer – he was born David Abaire in working-class South Boston, but he and his wife, an actress formerly known as Christine Lindsay, both use the hyphenated surname) won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Rabbit Hole. This play was quite a departure for him – his previous works tended to be dark comedies – Fuddy Meers, Kimberly Akimbo, Wonder of the World – and although they “did mostly really well” , the playwright noted that “certain critics dismissed them out of hand for being ridiculous and absurdist and cartoon-y.”
He attended prestigious schools like Julliard and Sarah Lawrence College on scholarship. At Julliard, his instructors included playwrights Christopher Durang and Marsha Norman. It was Norman who urged him to “write about what scares you most”. At the time, Lindsay-Abaire was in his early 20s and “honestly didn’t know what that was”. But after the birth of his son, he heard stories of parents who had lost a child. “I put myself in their shoes — and I experienced fear in a way I never had“, he says. The result was the award-winning Rabbit Hole, which allowed Lindsay-Abaire to “flex muscles I’d never used before as a writer. I had this whole new toolbox at my disposal.”
A few years later, he adapted his play into a screenplay. The 2010 film starred Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as the grieving parents.
Our design goals with Rabbit Hole were to create as much detailed reality inside of the theatre as possible. The general concept of the set [designed by Jacqueline Costa] was a dollhouse. We hoped to create the perception of looking inside a real house – as though the walls have been lifted.
[Composer/Sound Designer] Angus [Barlow] created music based on iconic synth-based film soundtracks of the 90’s. American Beauty, Six Feet Under, and True Romance served as inspiration for me. We hoped the music would give help us keep the energy of the scenes thoughout the changes. It’s like a character onstage who speaks when silence falls over the performers.
I haven’t seen any rehearsals but have peeked in at the impressive dollhouse-like set (with an upstairs level!), and absolutely adored the script. It was smart and spare, and so real. It’s easy to imagine you know these people – Becca and Howie, struggling to come to terms with this tragedy (the play begins 8 months after their son’s death) and figure out how they can relate to each other although they show their grief in different ways. Becca’s party-girl sister Izzy, who’s got more depth than one might initially think. Becca’s mother Nat, who tries to comfort her bereaved daughter and just can’t do it right. And Jason, the boy who – well, anyway…
The Author’s Note in the script made me laugh. “It’s a sad play,” he writes. “Don’t make it any sadder than it needs to be. Avoid sentimentality and histrionics at all costs…. there are, I hope, many funny parts in the play. They are important. Especially to the audience… Don’t ignore the jokes. They are your friends.”
So do enjoy Rabbit Hole, and do laugh at the jokes. It runs April 11 – 26, with performances Wed – Sat at 8pm; Sundays at 2pm. There’s a Talkback with cast and director following the matinee on April 20.
Purchase tickets online at www.alumnaetheatre.com; or reserve at 416-364-4170, xtn 1 and pay cash (2-for-1 Wed; $20 Thu/Fri/Sat; PWYC Sun) at Box Office.