By Katherine Karlson
KNOW Theatre has been a staple of the Binghamton theater scene for three decades, and it launches its milestone new season with a play by David Lindsay-Abaire that premiered on Broadway in 2006 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007: Rabbit Hole.
Artistic Director Tim Gleason directs this production, which examines how a life-shattering accident tosses a happy couple’s life into wild disarray and the aftermath that pushes each one into separate dark spaces.
The play succeeds on two fronts, Gleason said: “It’s a challenge for the actors to expand their abilities, and the commodity of grief is understandable to everyone in the audience. It’s impactful on all levels.
“The problem is our expectations with grief, what we expect the other person to do. The playwright included the note to the actors: ‘Don’t try to help; just be,’” Gleason added.
Jeff Tagliaferro and Joanna Patchett are Howie and Becca, the husband and wife who each grapple with the profound loss in distinctly different ways.
“One person’s grief is another person’s weakness; there is no timeline on grief,” said Patchett, who knows the emotion well from her professional work as a hospice nurse.
“Rebecca (Becca) is fighting to be heard. She needs time and space to get out from underneath the huge weight of her loss,” she added.
For his part, Howie wants to find a way forward so that he and his wife can be a family again.
“Sitting still is not what he wants to do. Howie has to find different tactics to get through to other people,” Tagliaferro said.
“The tragedy is a test, and they have to pass it together; that’s the challenge in every scene,” he added.
One of Gleason’s directorial challenges is the nonlinear structure of the piece, which he describes as brilliantly written.
“It doesn’t move from scene to scene, which makes it a strong responsibility for the actors to find a way forward without that ribbon to follow,” he said.
Following the pandemic of the past two years, Patchett understands we have all gone through a collective sense of grief and that this play will allow audience members to experience some catharsis.
“There’s no villain per se, and the play may help someone understand another person’s grief,” Tagliaferro added.
Kristen Whistle, Lynnette Daniels and Jacob Donlin round out the cast.
IF YOU GO: Rabbit Hole runs Sept. 16-Oct.1 at the KNOW Theater, 74 Carroll St., Binghamton. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 3 p.m. An 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, performance will be “Pay-what-you-can.” There will be no third Sunday (Oct. 2) show for this production; instead, there will be a second Thursday show on Sept. 29. Tickets are $25 ($20 for seniors, $15 for students). Visit www.knowtheatre.org.