Lindsay-Abaire created many challenges in Rabbit Hole’s protagonist, Becca. First, the character is often difficult to like: she’s distant from her husband, judgmental of her sister, and rude to her mother. Lindsay-Abaire risks alienating the audience even though Becca’s circumstances are horrible and her grief immense. One trait that helps balance her difficult side is her sense of humor. Though she occasionally employs it to biting effect, Becca manages to find irony and humor in the surreal circumstances of her life. She is not mean; she is just isolated by her grief and finds the way people around her go about continuing their daily lives funny. Another important aspect of Becca is her concern for her family. Beneath the nit-picking of her sister Izzy is a genuine interest in her happiness and well-being. She also shows sympathy for her mother, who lost a child too, albeit under very different circumstances. Most importantly, Becca recognizes that Howie’s grief is different from hers, but it has equal depth and complexity. Becca is a character standing still, who cannot understand why the rest of the world keeps moving right past her.
Howie is a challenging role because for most of the play, his actions are defined exclusively in terms of Becca’s needs. He constantly monitors Becca in an attempt to give her what she wants. It is clear early on that he has made many sacrifices (his dog, his house) for his wife’s grief. Never is this clearer than when he watches Danny’s videotape alone. He is so concerned with his wife’s feelings that he treats his own grief like a dirty secret. Yet hiding his feelings from his wife is precisely what is perpetuating the distance between them. His attempt to compartmentalize his life also explains why he flirts with a member of his grief-counseling group. If Becca is too immersed in her grief, Howie is attempting to hide from his.