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Rabbit Hole a review written by Jennifer Gordon

I grew up in South Boston on “Awesome Street!” To those of you living elsewhere in South Boston, that’s West 5th street, between E and F.

I had so much fun growing up there during the 70s and 80s.  There were lots of kids jammed into that one block, and we all hung out together playing baseball in the greenie, building forts, roller skating, putting on plays, and other shenanigans that I’m not going to mention here. David Abaire lived two doors down from me. We’d play chess on my stoop, and read comics. He was one of those wicked smaht kids.

Who would have guessed

One year we all put on a play. David played Hansel, I was Gretel, and it was directed by the neighborhood bully…Jacki Gordon. David probably wrote it. He was quite literate even then, when we were only ten. Who would have guessed back then that David would grow up to become a successful playwright and screenwriter? Well…I would have bet on it. David was talented, and more importantly, David was focused. It was clear that David could be whatever David wanted to be.

David was a Club Kid, and took advantage of the tutoring and homework help offered by the Boy’s and Girl’s Club (while you and I were writing graffiti on the walls, trying to break into the Galaga Videogame to get our “quakers” back, and chucking pool balls out the glass window panes). Always steering clear of trouble, and keeping his nose to the grindstone when it came to his studies, David earned a seat at Milton Academy, and later attended Sarah Lawrence College followed by Julliard.

Pulitzer Prize

In 2007, David won the Pulitzer Prize for Best Drama for his play, Rabbit Hole. He has also been nominated for several Tony Awards. He lost the Tony but, he was up against Dolly Parton and Elton John so I’ll cut him some slack on that.

When I was asked to review Rabbit Hole, I instantly agreed, and then second-guessed my decision. I hadn’t seen the film yet. What if I didn’t like it? I’m a huge fan of David’s play Kimberly Akimbo, but what if I didn’t like this one?

Hollyweird

After falling in love with Kimberly Akimbo, I believed in David’s talents, insight into universal human behaviors and emotions, and skills at communicating through the written word, but Hollyweird has a way of botching up a good thing. Who knows what David’s words may have morphed into by the time they hit the big screen? Would the integrity of the script remain intact? Or would it have been hijacked by Hollyweird?

I intrepidly went to see Rabbit Hole even though I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to relate to the characters. I’m not a parent, and the movie is about a couple, Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) coping with the death of their child. Would Rabbit Hole resemble one of those Lifetime Movies For Women, which bore me, never strike a chord and fail to conjure any real emotion? I didn’t want to sit through it sucking my teeth, rolling my eyes, and stifling my sarcastic comments (“because it’s rude to add your own soundtrack!”)

Amazing acting

I loved Rabbit Hole, and can truthfully tell you so!  The script remained solid, and effortlessly guided the actors through their performances.  There’s talk that Nicole Kidman will get an Oscar nod for her role and I’m surprised that we’re not hearing more about Aaron Ekhart’s perfect performance. The actors were amazing, but they had a great script to work with – no brainer. Seriously, ANYONE, even [insert random “Southie Character” here] could have worked those lines! (Kudos to Kidman for noticing an Oscar worthy script, and for approaching David four years ago to turn it into a screenplay.)

Rabbit Hole’s themes turned out to be universal. It’s about our greatest fears coming true, and the different ways we cope with the pain of loss.  For a parent, it’s the loss of a child, but for others, like me, it’s the loss of something/someone else that is dear to us.  Luckily for me, I went to see Rabbit Hole by myself, because I totally and uncharacteristically lost my composure, and bawled like a newborn in the back of the theater (but don’t tell anyone!)

How to cope with pain

The story also provides intermittent reprieves from the pain with some hilarious moments. This is when I see some Southie influence in David’s writing, even though the story is set in New York. I see the Southie style humor: our ability to find humor in tragedy. I’ve noticed that laughter is often how we Southie folk cope with our pain. We die laughing. We kill ourselves laughing. We laugh till we cry, and then we laugh some more!

 I want to share with you one of my favorite lines from the movie, which was spoken by Becca’s mother (Dianne Weist) at the moment I most intensely felt a connection with the characters. I empathized with the universal pain of loss; a loss that changes you irrevocably. Becca asks her mother –who lost a son from a heroin OD–if the pain ever goes away.

She answers:

“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.”

The bricks they carry

On my way home from the theater downtown (on the numbah leven, back over the Broadway Bridge) I looked at my fellow passengers on the bus differently because of David’s words. I saw people, and I could also see the bricks they carried around with them in their pockets. Slouch in posture, weight on their faces pulling down the corners of their mouths. I could see that some had a lot of bricks in their pockets. I felt a little more sympathetic and understanding towards them; connected.

David Lindsay Abaire lives in Brooklyn with his wife, actress Christine Lindsay Abaire, and their two children. For a list of David’s credits and accomplishments, you can check out his IMBD page.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1865755/

I also want to say that Kimberly Akimbo is one of the funniest stories I’ve ever read! It’s about a 16 year-old girl who passes for 70 years old because she has that aging disease. Kimberly knows that she will die soon. Kimberly is hilarious and amazing. I love Kimberly! Thank you David for Kimberly. I want to see Kimberly Akimbo made into a movie starring…Betty White! And that’s all that I have to say about that.

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About the Author

Maureen Dahill

Maureen Dahill is the editor of Caught in Southie and a lifelong resident of South Boston sometimes mistaken for a yuppie. Co-host of Caught Up, storyteller, lover of red wine and binge watching TV series. Mrs. Peter G. Follow her @MaureenCaught.