Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
“Three Days of Rain” – Compass Theatre
AIRDATE: MAY 30, 2008
Kids always complain that their parents don’t understand them. But the reverse is also true. Children – even grown-up, adult ones – rarely know their parents. And they never see them in the blush of youth, their greatest time of passion and promise.
This is just one thematic thread among many in Richard Greenberg’s wonderfully intelligent, intriguing 1997 play, “Three Days of Rain,” the Pulitzer Prize finalist that I consider the best of the prolific playwright’s works.
In the first act, we meet the insanely manic and hyperverbal Walker , and his stable, long-suffering, suburbanite sister, Nan . They’ve gotten together for the reading of their father’s will, joined by their childhood friend Pip, an uncomplicated and contented TV actor whose father was their dad’s architectural partner. The three convene in an abandoned New York apartment, where they propose hypotheses about the interrelationships of their parents. And then, in Act 2, we meet those parents, 35 years earlier, in 1960, and find out what happened during the seminal three days of rain referred to enigmatically in a diary. And we learn how off-base the offspring were .
The fascinating structural conceit of the play is that the same actors portray the children and their parents – an exhilarating challenge for the three performers.
Local favorite actor/director Rosina Reynolds has done a marvelous job with an excellent cast. Jason Heil is especially strong in the first act as Pip, who’s a lot less tormented and esoteric than his friends; he does a hilarious riff on why the myth of Oedipus makes no sense. Christy Yael is magnificent in the 2nd act, as Lina , Nan and Walker’s future mom, a Southern smarty who’s fluttery and flirtatious, thrilled to serve as the designers’ muse, but already showing disturbing signs of the emotional instability that will undo her later in life.
The real magic act of the evening is performed by Sean Cox, as the crazed, quick-witted and loquacious Walker in the first act, and the taciturn, stammering Ned in the second. It’s a stunning accomplishment that highlights Cox’s ever-expanding comic and dramatic gifts.
“Three Days of Rain” is teeming with ideas: not just the legacy parents leave their children – both financial and emotional, but also the cost of long-held family secrets; the effects of disconnection and miscommunication; genius versus mediocrity; honesty versus delusion; choices made, accepted and regretted.
The design of the production is minimalist, but the small, close space is perfect for the play’s claustrophobic interactions and emotions. This is an auspicious debut for the newly renamed Compass Theatre, charting a new direction for the intimate space formerly known as 6th @ Penn. Weather or not, “Three Days of Rain” makes a mighty big splash.
“Three Days of Rain” runs through June 16 at Compass Theatre (formerly 6th @ Penn).
©2008 PAT LAUNER