Becca—a grieving mother in her late thirties or early forties. Tough and uncompromising, she cannot tolerate insincerity or impracticality.
Howie—Becca’s husband, a patient man who specializes in pretending everything is fine.
Izzy—Becca’s younger sister, in her late twenties or early thirties. A perennial party girl who never grew up, Izzy is still trying to find herself.
Nat—Becca and Izzy’s mother, an opinionated alcoholic with a knack for sticking her foot in her mouth.
Jason—an awkward and nerdy seventeen-year-old boy who accidentally killed Becca and Howie’s son when the little boy ran in front of his car.
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.
Izzy ’s defining trait may be her rebellious nature. Lindsay-Abaire establishes this at the very opening of the play by having Izzy give a detailed account of a bar fight in which she participated. Izzy is clearly the black sheep of the family, and repeated references are made to her needing to grow up. Yet in many ways, Izzy is presented as the id to Becca’s ego. Every thought and emotion Izzy has comes out totally uncensored. Although she may be irresponsible, she is far more...
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