Rabbit Hole

by David Lindsay-Abaire
Drama Centre Theatre, Singapore

What is the architecture of grief? In Rabbit Hole, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, playwright David Lindsay-Abaire casts his eye over its gossamer fine blueprint, constructing an edifice that is full of honesty, empathy and raw humanity.

PANGDEMONIUM’s latest production is quite a departure from their existing repertoire of bold, brassy shows: it’s a bittersweet drama that places family at its very heart. Becca (Janice Koh) and Howie (Adrian Pang) are a couple trying to move on with their lives after a tragic accident snatched away their four-year-old son.

Koh and Pang give real, relatable performances as the bereaved couple, never overtly playing for emotion but yet conveying their feelings though the slightest of gestures. Koh, in particular, is wonderfully understated as Becca. A line like “This feeling. Does it ever go away?” delivered after her mother recounts an amusing family anecdote gives a quiet emotional jolt.  It reminds us that there’s no word in the English language to describe a parent who has lost a child, perhaps because it’s a depth of loss that simply defies description.

There is outstanding support from Seong Hui Xuan as Becca’s ditzy younger sister and Lok Meng Chue as her concerned but garrulous mother. These characters give the play great moments of comedy that go a long way in cutting through the tension. Yet, the beauty of Lindsay-Abaire’s writing is that these feel completely organic: a frivolous exchange about overfeeding the dog morphs into a recrimination against support groups and Becca’s contempt for “God freaks”.


Rabbit Hole is not a depressing, maudlin tearjerker. It certainly tugs at the heartstrings but this is a story that ultimately champions the survival and renewal of the human spirit. “Avoid sentimentality and histrionics,” cautions the playwright in the production notes. It’s a delicate emotional balance, one which director Tracie Pang handles perfectly in her well-judged, keenly-observed production.

Special praise for Philip Engleheart’s handsome, pastel-hued and thoughtfully decorated set which is set at an angle such that we feel we are sharing in the intimate domestic space with the characters. The children’s room, filled with colourful toys and other items, is cleverly incorporated into the split-level design.

One wonders why some attempt had not been made to localise the script: a naturalistic drama such as this could very easily have been set in Singapore instead of upstate New York, with the actors (sometimes uncomfortably) battling American accents. But this remains a minor cavil in a play that reminds us that every cloud has a silver lining. It may not always be warm and fluffy in the rabbit hole, but one does eventually get out.

The Crystalwords score: 4/5

*An edited version of this review was written for TODAY and published on 30 April 2013.


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