September 24, 2009

OOHP's new play 'Rabbit Hole' is a cathartic tear-jerker

You're handed complimentary tissue when you take your seat for the Over Our Head Players' emotionally charged show, "Rabbit Hole." At intermission, more Kleenex are passed out.

But while tears may flow during David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer-Prize winning play about a family dealing with the death of a child, director Patti Fitchett said the show is hardly wrenching.

"They're the kind of tears that are cathartic," she said. "It's not an unpleasant experience. The show is not tragic by any means. It's the universality of the emotion that brings the tears."

Fitchett described the play as a warm, tender and real look at the absurd things people way when tragedy strikes someone else. "Like platitudes at a funeral," she said. "The script really discusses those, and the reaction to those things."

Jennifer Kostreva leads a cast of five that also includes: Jennifer Nordstrom, Joe Krapf, Alice Anne Conner, and Patrick Schneider. Kathy Honigmann assistant directs; Rich Smith production manages, and Stephanie Dresen stage manages. The staff includes Joseph Piirto, Donna Nielsen, Maddie Braun, Ron Schulz, Diane Carlson, Jerry Horton, Tom Spraker, and Janine Anderson.

Fitchett said "Rabbit Hole," which is something of a departure for the typically comedy-minded OOHPs, was well suited to Kostreva's refined talents.

"This casts her in a way that was commensurate with her experience," Fitchett said. "Sometimes Snowdance isn't the best vehicle. She is much better used in this show than she's been utilized in the past."

"Rabbit Hole" is the sixth play Fitchett, of Kenosha, has directed for OOHP over the last 13 years. Fitchett said she lobbied to helm show.

"After I first read script I went to the board, begged them to direct," she said. "I loved it so much."

Fitchett proved a good fit, in part, because she had experience with Lindsay-Abaire's work. She had previously directed his play, "Wonder of the World," for the OOHPs.

She also brought a personal depth to the show. Several years ago her son became seriously ill and she and her husband were confronted with the possibility of losing a child. The boy, who was 3 at the time, is now a healthy teenager. But the experience forced Fitchett to confront many of the same emotions as the characters in the play.

"We were at the point of, 'What would you do if the unthinkable happens and we lost this child?" she said.

Lindsay-Abaire's play pushes the characters over that ledge and explores their life after the tragedy. Here's OOHP's description of the show:
A successful suburban couple must pick up the pieces after devastating tragedy tests their marriage: the Corbetts have everything a family could want, until a life-shattering accident leaves them drifting perilously apart. Rabbit Hole charts their bittersweet search for comfort, exploring life after tragedy. Their story is told through daily moments and emotional hurdles hiding in routines. The drama is in the haunting details, capturing "the awkwardness and pain of thinking people faced with an unthinkable situation - and eventually, their capacity for survival, and even hope.
The show was first performed in New York City in 2006 and featured a cast that included "Sex in the City's" Cynthia Nixon. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 and was also nominated for a Tony award.

"Rabbit Hole" opened at the Sixth Street Theatre last weekend. It continues with eight more shows over the next two weekends, including Friday nights at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 5:30 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $12 or $15 and are available by calling (262) 632-6802.


  1. It's great to have a theater performing a play that is not a comedy. I hope the community supports this genre and we continue to have options.

  2. Roll out the Barrel Men9/25/2009 12:59 PM

    The real tragedy is Sixth Street itself. (But kudos to the OOHP for their production!)

  3. Could be a tough one to sit through, I lost a 15 year old son 20 years ago. Ten years ago I started going to this theater as part of grief recovery from another death in the family. The group is really good.