Theatre Review by Conor McShane
3 out of 4
When growing up, we often think of our parents more as archetypes than as people. They are our mothers, our fathers, our role models, and therefore must be something bigger, purer, than us. What a shock, then, when we reach adulthood and realize our parents were human beings the whole time, beings who lived lives of their own long before we came along. Oftentimes, we don't really get to know who they are until we're grown up ourselves, able to empathize in a way we never could before.
Playwright Richard Greenberg explores this conundrum in Three Days of Rain, his 1997 play, produced twenty years later by BoHo Theatre at the tiny Heartland Studio space. His focus is on the Janeways, Nan (Kate Black-Spence) and Walker (Kyle Curry), the now-adult children of a prominent architect who reunite in New York to hear the reading of their father's will. Walker has been staying in a run-down Manhattan apartment that was once inhabited by their father, Ned, and his business partner, Theo (the sparse set by Patrick Ham and Michael Van Howe makes strong use of the enclosed space), where the two of them designed their first breakthrough, the “Janeway House.” Nan and Walker have a tougher time relating to their parents than most, with their father practially mute and their mother beset by mental health issues throughout their whole childhood. They believe they are about to be left their namesake house, which caused quite a stir in architectural circles when it was built. Also there for the bequeathal is Pip (Niko Kourtis), Theo's son, an actor who, in a surprising upset, is given the house instead. Along the way, Walker finds his father's journal, filled with seemingly banal entries that he believes explain Ned and Theo's relationship. The play then upends the narrative, sending us back in time to the 1960s, when a young Ned (Curry) and Theo (Kourtis) were living in that same apartment, and the origins of Ned's romance with Nan and Walker's mother, Lina (Black-Spence). What this time jump proves, more than anything, is that Walker and Nan know even less about their parents than they thought they did.
The double-casting and time-hopping structure are two interesting devices that give us insight into these characters that would have to have been relayed as exposition in a more conventional narrative. By having the actors play both children and their parents makes the idea of familial legacy very vivid, as we can't help but draw connections between the generations (though it's a little strange to see actors playing lovers who previously played siblings, but it's not too hard to suspend disbelief in this case). The Janeway children are distinct characters, but seeing them essentially embody their parents gives their own issues—Walker's isolation, Nan's frustrations, Pip's insecurity—more context. The downside of this bifurcated structure is that we are essentially watching two separate plays, with the second act standing as its own more conventional narrative, which ends up making both stories feel underdeveloped. Sympathizing with three privileged young people who have been given extremely valuable inheritances could be a bit of a tough pill to swallow for certain audience members, especially given the lens that has been focused on the disparity of wealth and privilege in this country of late. Perhaps this was a shrewd decision on BoHo's part, to pick a play that proves the lives of the wealthy and gifted can be no more fulfilling than anyone else's without any real emotional connection.
Happily, despite these issues with the script itself, BoHo has still managed to pull off a solid and enjoyable production. All three actors do strong work with their separate characters, making them distinct personalities with their own individual flaws, and director Derek Van Barham guides them through the play's tonal shifts with ease. To single out any one performer would be a disservice to the careful work that the three of them have done together. Greenberg's script is incredibly verbose (possibly too much so), and the actors do an impressive job of managing his dialogue, often packed with cultural, philosophical, and literary references. At times, the performances felt more, well, performative than truly in the moment, though this could also be a function of Greenberg's script, which often seems to use its intellect as way of distancing the audience from the characters. On the whole, Van Barham and the actors did commendable work on a challenging script. Also worth mentioning is the terrific use of music in the play, with complements the themes and, in the second act, sets the tone and time period (I was particularly happy to hear Ryan Adams's “To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)” at the end of act one). I'm not sure if this was the work of sound designer Kallie Rolison or the director, or both, but they deserve credit for it.
Three Days of Rain doesn't leave us with any easy answers, demonstrating that the whole truth of a person, even one you thought you knew, is basically unknowable. But, as Theo says at one point, “anything's tolerable if you just talk about it.” Maybe we can learn more about each other than we think, if we're able to listen to each other before it's too late.
Three Days of Rain is presented by BoHo Theatre at the Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood Ave. Performances run through June 25th, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $25, and can be purchased at www.bohotheatre.com or (866) 811-4111. Find BoHo Theatre on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BoHoTheatre, or on Twitter @BoHoTheatre.