Someone asked me the other day, “How do you define success?” I replied something glib like, “I don’t know if I believe in it.” What I meant was that no matter how much success a person has, there’s always some new job, new problem, new endeavor to explore. Success, in other words, is fleeting. Impermanent. And yet, the word “success,” to me, implies that something is finished, done, resolved. Imagine: You’re finished with a project. You’re proud of yourself! But how long does that pride last? Perhaps “that thing you did last year” was successful, but what’s next? Another “thing”? Another “success”? Are you successful if you don’t do more to sustain that success? Or perhaps surpass it?
In Rabbit, Bella is a “successful” woman — 29 years old, with a job that makes good money. But she’s not happy. Her relationships are fraught, she compares herself to everyone else, and she worries that she’ll never be as successful or as good as a man. She internalizes her father’s brusqueness and declares herself independent from love and commitment — a shield that poisons while it protects. The irony of Bella’s lifestyle choices don’t dawn on her until she’s faced with turning another year older, steadily marching further into adulthood and her independent life, while her father is in hospice, dying of cancer. Her friends believe that she’s smart, loveable, and deserving, but rather than comforting her, those assertions make Bella feel attacked.
So why is this play a comedy? I think it’s because Bella’s quandary is so recognizable in ourselves. We laugh because we get it, deep down. And Bella’s struggle is also something that “successful” people don’t want to talk about. Letting on that you’re not always sure that you’re doing the best you can or that you’re vulnerable to the whims of the world could tarnish the sheen of your brand. The almost mythological construction of self that we share with the world isn’t a full picture of the real self — we know this, and yet, we also tend to let our insecurities and competitiveness override the need to show the world our authentic selves.
If you’ve ever felt like you weren’t good enough, like you were an imposter, or like you weren’t living up to your potential, you aren’t alone. And Rabbit is just the play for you!
Rabbit runs December 2-12 at Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis. Tickets are available now!