Two theatrical offerings opening in the area this weekend take utterly different approaches to the subject of teenagers and family dynamics.

This is not to compare the two, because one is an emotionally-charged Pulitzer Prize-winning drama and the other is a lighthearted, experimental collaboration between the writers and their youthful cast.

The latter production is Newton’s Cradle, at Center Stage Theater through Sunday, presented by the Patricia Henley Foundation.

Billed as “a humorous, gritty, real-life teen musical,” Newton’s Cradle was written by Rod Lathim, Norma LaTuchie and Peter McCorkle, with direct input from the 14 cast members.

The show explores the life paths chosen by young people and the various ways that the environment, education and social interaction with the family and the world can alter each adolescent’s trajectory, for better or worse. The work can be considered as a set of variations on a theme, inspired by Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Newton’s Cradle is rated PG-13. Parents are strongly cautioned that some material may be inappropriate for children younger than 13).

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Teens put their own spin on the universe in Newton’s Cradle.

The musical plays at 8 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., Sunday. Tickets are $20 general admission and $12 for students and seniors.

The other play, which won the 2007 Pulitzer for Drama, is David Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole. It opens Friday at the Art Center Theater in Ojai.

Directed by Steve Grumette, Rabbit Hole‘s five characters are played by Garrett Boyd, Kimberly Demmary, Lynn Van Emmerik, Ron Feltner and Linda MacNeal. The costumes are by Edmund Andreas Arredondo, with original music by Irwin Appel.

When the Manhattan Theater Club’s production of Rabbit Hole opened at the Biltmore Theater in January 2006, a New York Times reviewer warned, somewhat cynically, “The Biltmore Theater had better be paid up on its flood insurance. Rabbit Hole, the wrenching new play by David Lindsay-Abaire that opened there last night, inspires such copious weeping among its audience that you wonder early on if you should have taken a life jacket.”

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David Lindsay-Abaire won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Rabbit Hole.

The reviewer then removes his tongue from his cheek and goes on to praise the production to the skies, but he has made his point. This drama of a family barely coping — and sometimes not coping at all — with the accidental death of a 4-year-old son, may be sometimes be funny, but it is mainly a tear-jerker.

Four of the characters are family: mother, mother’s mother, mother’s younger sister and father. The fifth is the teenage driver of the car that killed the little boy eight months before the play begins.

Rabbit Hole plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for Art Center members, seniors age 62 or older and students.

For tickets and information, call 805.640.8797 or visit

Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.