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Photo by Rachelle Klemme Carol Aspengren (background), Jo Kennedy and Robbie Grendahl practice some serious theatre in a scene from "Rabbit Hole."

Mad Lab presenting 'Rabbit Hole'

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A Pulitzer prize-winning play recently adapted into a critically acclaimed film is coming to Wadena, thanks to a second annual Mad Lab production.

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"Rabbit Hole" by David Lindsay-Abaire will be performed Friday-Saturday Jan. 28-29 and Friday-Saturday Feb. 4-5 at the Wadena Masonic Hall. All four evenings will have 7 p.m. showtimes, and the Saturdays will have 2 p.m. matinees.

The play is being directed by Matt Olsen, a native of Staples who works in professional theatre in Chicago.

The cast includes Kelly Youngbauer as Becca, Robbie Grendahl as Becca's husband Howie, Jo Kennedy as Becca's sister Izzy, Carol Aspengren as Becca and Izzy's mother Nat, and Aaron Carter as Jason the teenage driver.

Aspengren has been involved with Madhatters for about five years.

"The very first time I went down I was going to volunteer to sweep the floor when they had auditions for 'Drop Dead,'" Aspengren said. "And don't you suppose I ended up with a part!"

Mad Lab was started when some Madhatters board members said they did not want to be limited to big-budget, family-friendly productions and wanted to also pursue small, edgy, dramatic plays which explore emotions and uncomfortable modern issues. Thus Mad Lab, which is under the auspices of Madhatters, had their first production "Girl" in 2010. "Rabbit Hole," which deals with loss and grief, is their second foray into serious theatre.

"It's not all crying. It's definitely how a family heals, so there's laughing and there's family dynamics that are like usual," Aspengren said. "But it shows the stages of grief that people go through."

Aspengren said her relationships and life events have helped her get in character.

"I have two daughters just like in the show. I have little grandchildren ... and my brother was killed in Vietnam," she said. "I think the age I am, it's easier to be someone else because you've had so many life experiences."

Along with Mad Lab, Madhatters has also conducted summer drama camp and sponsored scholarships.

"They've been a community bulwark in helping raise awareness about arts and give some scholarships to kids who are going on to college," Aspengren said.

According to boxofficemojo.com and the "Rabbit Hole" Facebook page, the film starring Nicole Kidman as Becca opened in a handful of theaters on Dec. 17 and is currently in limited release. Regionally, it has been screened in uptown Minneapolis and Edina. As of press time, it has an 87 percent rating on film critic aggregate site RottenTomatoes.com.

The production received a grant provided by the Five Wings Arts Council with funds from the McKnight Foundation. It is supplemented with Legacy Funds.

All tickets for the Mad Lab production are $5 and can be purchased at Thrifty White Drug, An Open Book and at the door. For more information, call (218) 632-SHOW.

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