The Attic Ensemble’s ‘Rabbit Hole’ Premieres This Weekend


Photo: Tatsuro Nishimura

Flood Warning! If the New York Times is to believed, residents of Jersey City should be prepared for high waters beginning today.

Sure, the forecast calls for rain, but that’s not the half of it. Today is also the opening night for The Attic Ensemble’s presentation of Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2006 tear-jerking play, Rabbit Hole.

The play is rooted in the deep sadness that comes from the death of a small child that takes place months before the play’s opening scene. “[It] inspires such copious weeping among its audience that you wonder early on if you should have taken a life jacket,” the Times noted in 2006.

The Attic Ensemble’s presentation marks the directorial debut of Brendan Applegate, a native of Elizabeth, and three-season veteran of the theater group. Applegate joined the Ensemble after losing his job and subsequently responding to an open casting call. He joined the show and, as he says, “I haven’t left since.”

In the intervening years Brendan has participated in all aspects of producing a show, both onstage as well as behind the curtain. He is particularly excited about staging Rabbit Hole, because of “the cast and the wonderful material that we get to work with.” Plus, he quips, “It’s a real comedy.”

The Attic Ensemble has been putting on plays, poetry readings, stand up comedy nights and fund raisers in Jersey City for 39 years. From its humble beginnings in an attic space in Jersey City the group continued to grow and relocate to various venues around town, now taking up residency at the Barrow Mansion on Wayne Street.

It’s not always easy for the Attic, or for any arts group in Jersey City, to lure residents out of their homes, or, in many cases, away from Manhattan, to see a local performance. But, as Applegate points out, “It’s a lot cheaper to come to your backyard and see a great, high caliber show, instead of going to the city.”

With this performance, the ensemble sought a play that would challenge not only the audience but the performers as well. Typically, Applegate says, when a play is selected a few things factor into it: will it bring variety to the season, will it help the theater group reach new goals and higher artistic pursuits, and does it introduce a new and exciting challenge? Ideas are submitted to artistic director, Art Delo, and he proceeds to put together a schedule for each season.

As the second show in the Attic Ensemble’s 2009-2010 Mainstage Season, Rabbit Hole “is a vehicle for a strong season,” Applegate explains. “It holds up.”

There was a strong turnout in response to the casting call for Rabbit Hole and from that field three actors who are new to the company join two Attic alumni in the production. At a dress rehearsal just a couple nights before the play was set to open this week, the inside of the Barrow Mansion was transformed into a modest, quaint home. It is in this home that Lindsay-Abaire’s story of overcoming heartbreak unfolds. And it is there that the audience, as Brendan Applegate puts it, “gets two spend two hours outside of their lives, and in someone else’s.”

Rabbit Hole
Written by David Lindsay-Abaire, directed by Brendan Applegate, presented by The Attic Ensemble.
Opens at the Barrow Mansion (83 Wayne St.) in Jersey City on Friday, Nov. 13. For more info visit

a writer and educator living in Jersey City with his wife Stephanie, a painter. He teaches composition at New Jersey City University and works as a Writing Center Specialist at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. He is the managing editor of Patrol.