Rabbit Hole

ACTORS Santana Vermeesch, left, and Amy Winchell, who are cast in the Owosso Community Players’ production “Rabbit Hole” as Becca and Izzy, respectively, are pictured rehearsing their roles Wednesday at the Studio Theater in Owosso. “Rabbit Hole” opens at the Lebowsky Center Nov. 3.

OWOSSO — Anna Owens knows the subject matter of the Owosso Community Players’ latest production, “Rabbit Hole,” will challenge audiences. The Pultizer Prize-winning drama, written by David Lindsay-Abaire, deals with the way a family copes with the untimely death of a child.

But, the OCP director said, it’s a challenge that is worth the effort.

“The task that we’re assigned when we do plays like this is to take a slice of life and communicate it in a way that is thoughtful, so that people can relate to it,” Owens said. “It’s one of the beautiful things about theater, that you might not get in film or music or other media, to be able to communicate those emotions live and in-person.”

“Rabbit Hole” is set for a six-show run at the Lebowsky Center, 122 E. Main St., beginning at 8 p.m. Nov. 3. It will also run at 8 p.m. Nov. 4, Nov. 10 and Nov. 11; and at 3 p.m. Nov. 5 and Nov. 12.

OCP is planning to host “talk back” sessions with audience members after the Nov. 5 and Nov. 10 shows — discussions, featuring cast members from the show and local grief counselors, on issues raised by the play.

Owens said the intent of hosting discussions about those issues are to “build a community” of people who are going through similar situations, in hopes of healing together.

“There are a lot of families who are dealing with grief issues — all kinds of grief issues — who need to talk it through and might not have that tool in their toolbox,” Owens said. “We want to continue that discussion.”

Owens can relate to those feelings, having experienced the death of a niece, Sydney Owens, at age 25, in a skiing accident five years ago. She said after that happened, she was torn between two different emotional responses — showing her pain very strongly, and risking alienating other people, or not showing any pain at all, and potentially hurting herself.

“It’s awkward,” she said. “My brother was worried we would forget his daughter, because she was so young, but at the same time, he didn’t want to talk about it. It’s a push-pull emotion. What do you say to that?”

Actors Santana Vermeesch and Amy Winchell agreed “Rabbit Hole” differs from many plays they have previously performed in because of the relatively small size of its cast, which counts just five characters.

Vermeesch, of Saginaw, portrays Becca, a mother in grief over the death of her 4-year-old son Danny due to a car crash; while Winchell, of Owosso, plays Izzy, Becca’s sister, who struggles to console her through the loss.

Other cast members include: Matt Hutchinson as Howie, Becca’s husband, who is dealing with his grief in a different way than his wife; Deb Knipe as Nat, Becca’s mother, who has also lost a child at an untimely age; and Nicholas Richardson as Jason, the young man who was driving the car that killed Danny.

“With a small cast, you get to know one another really well,” Winchell said. “On a big stage, having a small cast is a little intimidating. It’s an intimate experience, and we have to communicate truthfully what we’re trying to do.”

Vermeesch added she was excited to perform in the show, which is very well-regarded in the theater community.

In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, “Rabbit Hole” ran for 77 performances on Broadway and received several Tony Award nominations, winning one. In 2010, it was adapted into a major film, starring Nicole Kidman, who received a nomination for Best Actress at that year’s Academy Awards for her performance.

“I heard about this audition and I wanted to be the first one in line,” Vermeesch said. “You don’t see plays like this very often. The language, the conversation, it’s sharp, it’s witty, it’s tragic, but it’s so real, and everyone can relate to it. I think people are going to love it.”

For additional information, and to purchase tickets, visit owossoplayers.com or call (989) 723-4003.

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