Friday, April 29, 2011

Fine Actually

Rabbit Hole  (2005)
by David Lindsay-Abaire

BECCA  Mom?  Does it go away?
NAT  What?
BECCA  This feeling.  Does it ever go away?
NAT  No. I don't think it does.  Not for me, it hasn't.  And that's goin' on eleven years.  It changes though.
NAT  I don't know.  The weight of it, I guess.  At some point it becomes bearable.  It turns into something you can crawl out from under.  And carry around - like a brick in your pocket.  And you forget it every once in a while, but then you reach in for whatever reason and there it is: "Oh right.  That."  Which can be awful.  But not all the time.  Sometimes it's kinda ... Not that you like it exactly, but it's what you have instead of your son, so you don't wanna let go of it either.  So you carry it around.  And it doesn't go away, which is ...
BECCA  What?
NAT  Fine ... actually.

A few months ago, I had the honor and privilege of playing the role of Howie in David Lindsay-Abaire's STUNNING play, Rabbit Hole.  The beautiful 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning script tells the story of a married couple dealing with the accidental death of their 4-year-old child. That's me in the picture above with my dear friend, MaryBeth, who played my wife, Becca.  It was one of the proudest moments in my community theatre acting "career," along with my portrayal of Father Flynn a few years back in the 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Doubt (more on that another day).

Rabbit Hole is the kind of play I can see myself writing.  A taut, single-set, personal family drama sprinkled liberally with doses of comedy.  We spent much of the rehearsal period marvelling at the script - its economy of words, its precise and effective use of silence, its ability to say JUST what needs to be said ... and nothing more.  Roles like Howie don't come along very often - a role with rich rewards that beats you up at the same time.  Howie works at cross-purposes with his wife in dealing with his grief and loss ... he is great at appearing that he has "everything under control," he's dealing with it, doing everything that is "expected" of him, such as going to group sessions.  Underneath is an overwhelming rage and depression that is only brought out by his wife's need to NOT think about it and even "erase" evidence of their child's existence from the home.

The night before last, the cast of Rabbit Hole got together to watch the film version for the first time ... together.  It amazed me how the stage play was adapted for the screen (both scripts were written by Lindsay-Abaire).  It struck me that the method of story-telling in film is so different from the stage.  The prolonged scenes in the stage script were diced into small moments, often scattered non-sequentially throughout the film and even more surprising, lines were given to different characters.  Add to that the introduction of characters only mentioned, but not seen, in the stage play, and multiple locations outside the family home (a bowling alley, a park, the group sessions, the mother's home).  It was really fascinating to compare the two ... even the "arc" of the stories for Howie and, significantly more pronounced, Becca, were altered for the film.

As a writer, I would love to study the two scripts side-by-side ... I'm looking forward to watching it again with the commentary track (featuring the film's Director, Director of Photography, AND Lindsay-Abaire) turned on.  Which did I prefer?   They were both so different, its hard to compare them, particularly since there were many things about each that I liked.  My heart belongs, of course, to the stage version.  And as a writer?  I think I'll stick to the stage, as well.

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