Kidman plunges into the Rabbit Hole

Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart jump wholeheartedly and sincerely into their grief-stricken roles in Rabbit Hole

Rabbit Hole
Pageant Theatre. Rated PG-13.
Rated 4.0

The title has two references of some consequence. One has to do with Alice in Wonderland’s plunge into a topsy-turvy netherworld. The other alludes to a graphic novel by one of the several characters who have taken something like that plunge in this earnest film version of David Lindsay-Abaire’s prize-winning play.

The plunge in this case is already eight months in the past, but the characters—a young, grieving married couple and assorted friends and family—are still reeling from the initial shock as well as from the emotional disorientation of a seemingly endless aftermath.

The grieving couple, Becca and Howie (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart), the pivotal figures in this downbeat and compassionately considerate scenario, have not resigned themselves to the despair and confusion that have overtaken them. And director John Cameron Mitchell’s orchestration of that beleaguered emotional persistence is what keeps Rabbit Hole from devolving into maudlin melodrama.

Kidman, Eckhart and several of the supporting actors are very nicely attuned to the sensitivities and understatement of Lindsay-Abaire’s script. Rabbit Hole ventures into obvious soap-opera territory but steers clear of morbid sensationalism and sentimentality. Best of all, it has a half-dozen characters meeting their grief-stricken sorrows in honest, lucid, quietly heartening ways.

Young Miles Teller is very good as teenage Jason, a crucial addition to the drama’s gallery of folk who are both haunted souls and innocent victims. Dianne Wiest holds together very well in what initially looks like it will be the one role (Becca’s mom) that will be allowed to wallow in the maudlin. Sandra Oh is subtle and superb in a key secondary role.

Kidman remains the star of the show, and it is her character whose rabbit-hole plunge skirts most spectacularly on mad-hatter insanity. But Kidman and Eckhart indulge in no actorish grandstanding whatsoever. Both seem wholly committed to their characterizations, and that’s part of what brings a warming glow to the dark and chilly subjects of this steadfast little drama.