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Gerald Carpenter: SBCC Theater Group Takes Audience Down ‘Rabbit Hole’

The final production of Santa Barbara City College Theatre Group's 2016-17 season is David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer-winning play Rabbit Hole, which runs April 12-29 in the Jurkowitz Theatre on SBCC's West Campus.

Directed by Katie Laris, with sets and lighting by François-Pierre Couture, sound by Barbara Hirsch, and costumes by Pamela Shaw, Rabbit Hole stars Leslie Gangl Howe, Paul Canter, Ryan Ostendorf and Shannon Saleh.

In the age of the nuclear family, few marriages survive the death of their only child.

Eight months before the action of Rabbit Hole, 4-year-old Danny Corbett, chasing the Corbett's dog Taz, followed the pet down their front walk, out the gate, and into the street, where Danny is struck and killed by a car driven by 16-year-old Jason, who had swerved to avoid hitting Taz.

Danny's death was clearly an accident, for which no one can be reasonably blamed. Danny's parents, Becca and Howie, naturally, each blame themselves (not their spouse); Jason, naturally, blames himself. Only the dog Taz is not staggering under an ever-enlarging mass of guilt.

Becca deals with her guilt by trying to remove from her life all reminders of her son: she takes Taz to her mother's, takes his clothes to Goodwill, and plans to sell their house.

Howie goes the other way: When he is not at work, he spends his time watching videos of Danny.

Jason is composing a graphic novel (comic book) which he calls The Rabbit Hole.

The couple joins a support group of parents who have lost their children, but it doesn't seem to help.

(In Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter, Mitchell Stevens [Ian Holm] asks Billy [Bruce Greenwood], whose child was one of a score killed in a bus crash, if he can help. "Not unless you can raise the dead," says Billy.)

When you can't change the past, and can't imagine the future, you are well and truly stuck. "I didn't know grief felt so much like fear," wrote C.S. Lewis, after the death of his wife.

Peopled with characters who compulsively spew their emotions into their surroundings, Rabbit Hole would be unbearable.

Becca's and Howie's restraint, their outward calm — broken only rarely, when their grief escapes to the surface like red-hot magma — is what makes it possible for us to bond with them, and, in a sympathetic way, to share their tragedy.

We're humans, after all; even those who have no children can connect on some level with the loss of one.

And at the end, Becca and Howie seem on the verge of beating the odds — they seem to have weathered the terrible storm to find themselves, not knowing quite how, landed on a new continent, with a new life a distinct possibility.

Unsentimental, yet utterly gripping, it's no mystery how Rabbit Hole won a Pulitzer Prize. It's a masterpiece.

Rabbit Hole plays at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturdays (April 15, 22 and 29) and Sunday, April 23.

Tickets are, for previews April 12-13, are $18 general/$15 seniors/$10 students; Wednesday and Thursday evenings, Saturday and Sunday matinees, $24 general/$19 seniors/$14 students; Friday and Saturday evenings, $26 general/$21 seniors/$17 students.

Buy tickets at the Garvin Theatre Box Office, by phone, 965-5935, or online at

The Jurkowitz Theatre is wheelchair-accessible and has assisted-listening headsets. Parking is free and near the theater. Due to the intimate nature of the theater, no late seating is permitted.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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