Pentacle to perform Pulitzer-winning play about grief and comfort

A young driver, an ill-timed phone call and a dog on the loose turned one moment into a tragedy, leaving a young couple searching for meaning amid grief in the play “Rabbit Hole.”

The performance takes to the Pentacle Theatre’s stage on Friday, April 21, and runs through May 13. It will debut two actors from the community.

The play focuses on Becca and Howie Corbett and their son Danny. One day, Danny runs into the street, where he is struck and killed by a young driver. With grief threatening to tear them apart, the play focuses on the couple learning how to live with it and move forward with the help of loved ones.

It’s the 49th play that Jo Dodge has directed, and one she hopes will have an emotional impact on the audience and showcase the importance of community theater.

Though the subject is heavy, Dodge said that it’s “not all doom and gloom,” with moments of humor. The play, written by David Lindsay-Abaire, won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for drama. 

“It’s beautifully written. And I have to say my cast lives up to the challenge,” Dodge said.

Dodge first fell in love with community theater at the Pentacle in 1979, and directed her first play the next year. She called it a second home. 

She’s been teaching acting workshops since 1981, with a three-decade run at Chemeketa Community College which she continued at the Pentacle.

“Rabbit Hole” features several of her former students, including Cameron Estes who will have his acting debut opening night. He plays Jason, the teenager who accidentally kills Danny.

“(Estes) came with a friend, never having done or thought about being in theater, and now he’s in a play,” Dodge said, and laughed.

Jen Killikelly is also a newcomer, and will be joined by seasoned actors Heather Toller, Nancy Gorrell and David Ballantyne. Dodge directed Ballantyne’s first performance when he was 19, and has now worked with him around nine times.

“It’s wonderful when you have people who love what they’re doing and work very hard to get everything we can out of a play,” she said. “I’m telling you, Salem is a small town as you get to know people, and (the Pentacle) couldn’t get rid of me, so I’ve been there just having the best time.”
Dodge described her long career in community theater as “a fairy tale,” and said she hopes that audience numbers at the Pentacle will continue to recover after Covid.

“That took its toll, I think, on all the theaters,” she said. “Theater is a necessity for any community, in my opinion. It’s the mirror of society. We’ve got to keep theater going.”

The Pentacle Theatre is at 324 52nd Ave. N.W., off Highway 22.

Ticket prices range from $17 to $37, with 50% discounts available to students, frontline healthcare workers and Oregon Trail Card holders. Tickets are available online, by calling 503-485-4300 or at the box office 45 minutes before the performance. 

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.