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Pitt-Greensburg students explore love, loss in ‘Rabbit Hole’ | TribLIVE.com
Theater & Arts

Pitt-Greensburg students explore love, loss in ‘Rabbit Hole’

Tribune-Review
| Tuesday, November 18, 2014 9:00 p.m.
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Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
Jordan Fessler and Alex Knapp rehearse a scene from 'Rabbit Hole' at the Ferguson Theater at the University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg.
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Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
Alex Knapp in a scene from 'Rabbit Hole' at the Ferguson Theater at the University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg.
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Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
Kaitlyn Schmidt in a scene from 'Rabbit Hole' at the Ferguson Theater at University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg.
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Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
Jordan Fessler (from left), Rachel Ann Painter and Alex Knapp in a scene from 'Rabbit Hole' at the Ferguson Theater at University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg.

A married couple struggles to cope after their 4-year-old son, Danny, is struck and killed by a car in “Rabbit Hole,” David Lindsay-Abair’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play that will be presented Nov. 20 to 23 at the University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg’s Ferguson Theater.

Becca and Howie are the grieving parents who must put their lives — and their marriage — back together after the accident. Their efforts to return to normal are complicated by the presence of Becca’s irresponsible sister Izzy and their alcoholic mother, Nat. Each character, including Jason, the boy who killed Danny, feels guilty in some way about the boy’s death.

“They struggle in different ways,” says director Stephen Schrum, associate professor of theater arts at the school. Becca stews in her anger and wants to get rid of all reminders of her lost son, while Howie tries to remain optimistic about the future, even as he secretly watches home movies of Danny and grieves in his own way.

“I think the audience will appreciate the humanity,” says Schrum, who is a fan of playwright Lindsay-Abair. “He knows how to write people going through extremely emotional situations. But there are moments of humor; this is not a dismal, depressing play. He shows how people use humor to diffuse difficult situations.”

Part of that humor comes from Nat’s drunken commentary. Because of some adult language and themes, the play is best suited to audiences age 13 and older.

The role of the tormented Becca is played by junior Jordan Fessler. She says that, because most people have experienced loss, they can relate to Becca’s pain. “I think they’ll be able to connect to her emotions really well, because it’s so relevant to so many people’s lives. Everybody has rough times in their lives, and it’s hard on their relationships.”

Fessler says she hopes audiences will take away an important message from the play. “You have to give up a little bit of yourself to make things better with the important people in your life,” she says.

Freshman Alex Knapp is cast in the role of Howie, a man who is doing his best to get on with life while treasuring his son’s memory. “Howie is a very loving husband and very caring,” Knapp says. “However, he’s dealing with the death of his son very differently from his wife, Becca. Howie tries to better himself and get over it. A lot of the conflict comes from Becca and Howie not being in the same plane of grief.”

While Becca stews in her anger, Howie tries to stay positive. “You feel for him the most. He’s the one that’s trying the hardest,” Knapp says. “He still loves his wife, he still takes care of everything, and he still works hard.”

Knapp believes that audiences will appreciate the realism of the play. “It’s very real, and it will make audiences happy at the end. It’s a nice roller coaster of emotion.”

Cynthia Bombach Helzel is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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