It is easy to miss the beauty of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize–winning play “Rabbit Hole.” Somewhat old-fashioned in its structure, the play takes place almost entirely in one house. Conversations are everyday, peppered with occasional references to real people (John F. Kennedy Jr. and Matt Lauer are name-dropped). Time passage between scenes is minimal, with the most significant jump occurring during the intermission between Acts I and II.
Excluding a few minor theatrical touches, not much happens in “Rabbit Hole” in the way of big events. Yet its simplicity has been a crucial component in the accolades the play has received. In an age where the metatheatrical rules, “Rabbit Hole” tells a simple yet rich story about a family overcoming the death of their child. Significant events do happen in the play of course, but Lindsay-Abaire’s presentation is so subtle that the audience does not see the shifts until they have already occurred.
When he began writing “Rabbit Hole,” Lindsay-Abaire was inspired by a piece of advice that had stuck in his mind from his Julliard professor Marsha Norman: “Write about the thing that frightens you most.” The writer confessed that, for a long time, he wasn’t exactly sure what she meant by that.
Then, he had a son and suddenly it made perfect sense: “When I thought about what it would be like for me to lose my son, I experienced the grip of fear in the most profound way. That became the seed of ‘Rabbit Hole.’”
As he began to explore the roots of his fear, that seed opened up organically into the Corbetts, who came to life in a series of family conversations in their lovely Westchester home, conversations filled with terse, charged dialogue that belied all the emotions boiling under their seemingly placid and beautiful surface.
A Q&A interview with David Lindsay-Abaire on “Rabbit Hole”:
Where did this play come from?
It came from a couple of places. When I was a student at Julliard, my teacher Marsha Norma told us, “Write about the thing that frightens you the most.” I was in my 20s and didn’t know what scared me. Then I got married and had a son. And when he was three, I heard about friends of friends who had children die suddenly. And I understood fear in a profound way. And Marsha’s words came back to me. And that became the seed of the play.
It seems like a departure from your earlier plays, like “Fuddy Meers” and “Kimberly Akimbo.”
All of my plays up until then had been absurdist and farcical. I wanted to try a more naturalistic play. But I was waiting for the right story.
What was it like to deal with a story about a couple whose child has died?
My son was four when I was writing it and the child that dies in the play is four. So I kept it a secret from my wife while I was writing it. It was so creepy — writing about the death of a four year old. That part was difficult. I had to access scary emotions and feelings. It was very immediate.
Source: Huffington Post