Author defines art in play about loss, dysfunction

David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Rabbit Hole,” which opened April 1, addresses a family’s grief after a horrible tragedy.

Incredibly written with moments of comedy amid the emotional tug of guilt, sorrow and blame, the play has been heralded for its heartfelt characters and genuinely poignant dialogue. “Rabbit Hole” runs through April 26 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre.

Stephen Elton, artistic associate at North Coast Rep and who directed last year’s “A Christmas Carol,” helms “Rabbit Hole.” Elton admired many facets of Lindsay-Abaire’s play and particularly what the playwright had learned from his teacher and award-winning writer, Marsha Norman.

“She told her students, David among them, that if you want to write a good play, write about what frightens you most,” Elton said. “It wasn’t until years later when David had a family of his own that he knew what he feared most. ‘Rabbit Hole’ goes beyond dramatic stage action. It was written for a specific reason, and that’s the thing people latch on to; to find the truth of what he was writing about.

As a director, I feel obligated towards a writer’s original concept, and in the end of this play, we are close to this truth.”

“Rabbit Hole” stars Jo Anne Glover, Brendan Ford, Sandra Ellis-Troy, Ryan Kidd and Jessa Watson. In a play this complex, it’s paramount that the cast live up to the task of infusing their characters with realism.

“I like my actors to find the walls of their characters, and in most plays, the characters live in a metaphorical room,” Elton said. “The actor is in the dark - not knowing how big the room is, what shape it is or how far they might have to go to find walls in terms of the emotions. In this play, they have to be angry, appreciative, vulnerable, selfish and be willing to go places we may not need in the play. This cast is incredible, and I admire their ability to do that.”

Tackling the subjects of loss and dysfunction within families, “Rabbit Hole” focuses on a couple months after the horrific event and their recovery and efforts to move on.

“We look at how each one of them has to put this event in perspective and try to take something from it,” Elton said. “I hope people eliminate making a presumption about the play in the beginning and open themselves up to discover incredible things they never perceived.

A seasoned playgoer will appreciate the art, the writing and the acting, but also take away a nugget that may benefit them in the future.”

‘Rabbit Hole’

  • Now through April 26
  • North Coast Repertory Theatre
  • 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach
  • (858) 481-1055