note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Carl A. Rossi
Walker/Ned … Bob Williams
Nan/Lina … Susan Condit Rice
Pip/Theo … Bill Stambaugh
Richard Greenberg is the Boston area’s playwright of the moment --- Stoneham Theatre produced THE DAZZLE and THE VIOLET HOUR within the past year and soon you can take in TAKE ME OUT courtesy of SpeakEasy Stage and Boston Theatre Works. Meanwhile, Mr. Greenberg’s THREE DAYS OF RAIN, a 1998 Pulitzer nominee, is being handsomely performed by the Quannapowitt Players in Reading and with this, its 241st production, the little red schoolhouse-turned-playhouse proves that the distance between professional and community theatre is often a matter of location location location rather than artistic excellence.
Like THE VIOLET HOUR, THREE DAYS OF RAIN involves a bit of time-traveling: the action takes place in a Manhattan loft, first in 1995, then in 1960. Walker and Nan, brother and sister, meet in what was their parents’ first apartment to settle the estate of their late father Ned, a leading architect of the 1960's --- in particular, who will get his celebrated Janeway House out in the country and, more importantly, who deserves it? Nan, married and successful, hopes the eccentric, wandering Walker will get the house and thus a home but Ned’s will leaves it to their childhood friend Pip, the son of Ned’s fellow architect Theo. Pip, now a soap-opera actor, doesn’t want the house, however, and the talkative trio gradually learns that it has also been a triangle, of sorts. A cryptic opening entry from Ned’s discovered journal --- “April 3rd to April 5th: Three days of rain.” --- is interpreted by Walker as the scribbles of a non-communicative father with nothing to say. In 1960, said scribbles take on a different, richer meaning as another triangle plays out between Ned, Theo and their beloved Lina, ending in why Ned will pass the Janeway House on to Pip. (Act Two uses the same actors from Act One.) Mr. Greenberg’s dialogue --- funny, nervy, suddenly tender or lyrical --- is a pleasure and lulls for the most part the feeling that his Time-games are too slick and pat with everything falling all too easily into place. Someday, someone should produce THREE DAYS OF RAIN with the two acts in reverse --- thus, when Walker dismisses the journal’s relevance, the audience already knows what Ned’s son and daughter never, ever will; a crackerjack mystery would then become a rueful comedy between generations.
Nancy Curran Willis has directed the Quannapowitt production firmly and compassionately with a subtle eye for detail so that Mr. Greenberg’s characters flush warm with life rather than register as high-strung pieces of a cosmic puzzle (Act Two will be Quannapowitt’s entry in the EMACT Drama Festival, next month). I had previously seen Bob Williams, Susan Condit Rice and Bill Stambaugh in productions at the Vokes Theatre and to have them come together here under Ms. Willis’ guidance results in a triple ignition, onstage. Mr. Williams and Ms. Rice pull off the play’s acid test --- their Ned and Lina make you forget their Walker and Nan. Mr. Williams’ self-dramatizing Walker, locked in sulky boyhood, is well contrasted with his stuttering, taciturn Ned and Ms. Condit’s Nan, clenched as a fist, unfurls into a florid Lina, torn between free spirit and Southern decorum. In Act One, Lina is reported to have gone mad, more or less; Ms. Condit hints of future instability by not only presenting Lina as restless and predatory, she keeps her, for all her joie de vivre, mirthless and staring --- an unhappy woman, poised just before her descent. Bill Stambaugh has already acquired a stage persona --- a dry-humored conman slipping on Life’s banana peel --- and if he cuts his Theo and Pip from the same cloth, well, that’s the way the roles are written but with Mr. Stambaugh playing them so entertainingly, I am content to smile and say, “Like father, like son.” The Quannapowitt Players have announced Mary Chase’s HARVEY as part of their upcoming season; I’ve a hunch that Mr. Stambaugh, if cast and with a few pastels on his palette, and Elwood P. Dowd could make beautiful music together.
A few nitpicks: on the evening I attended, Mr. Williams quoted from the journal and then held it open in such a way that I could see it was blank and Mike Condon’s rain effects are too cartoon-like on the sidelines; his water patterns on the skylight, however, are wonderfully wet and evocative.