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Three Days of Rain

a Comedy/Drama
by Richard Greenberg

COMPANY : Onstage Atlanta, Inc. [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Onstage Atlanta, Inc. (Decatur) [WEBSITE]
ID# 3642

SHOWING : February 12, 2010 - March 06, 2010



In this tense and brittle reunion, much more is at stake than who gets the house. Brother and sister discover their father's diary and use it to create a story for themselves that will make sense of their parent's passionless marriage. Over the "three days of rain" entered in the young architect's diary, the same three actors then play their own parents and reveal a romantic significance and creative dilemma that none of these children could have ever imagined.
Shows Fri&Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm, two Thursdays and one Monday industry night. See website fir more and how to reserve tickets.

Director David Klein
Lighting Designer Harley Gould
Stage Manager Arianna Soloway
Costume Designer Toni Sunseri
Set Designer Barry N. West
Production Stage Manager Kristel Wunderlin
Nan/Lina Barbara Cole Uterhardt
Walker/Ned Michael Henry Harris
Pip/Theo Justin Sims
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Light Notes
by Mama Alma
Thursday, February 25, 2010
I loved this piece with a passion usually reserved for Tennessee Williams -- maybe because at its heart is a doomed Southern beauty. Maybe it's the persistence of the image of red bursting from a crystal statue, reminiscent of Williams' red blossoms on a white wall . Maybe it's the canny construction, a mystery play told in reverse, the intricate puzzle, the koan of guilt and madness told in a language of light and shadow.

The mundane facts of the play are these: that a brother and sister, Nan and Walker Janeway, meet their childhood friend, Pip, for the reading of the Janeway Will. Ned Janeway, father to Nan and Walker, was business partners with Theo Wexler, Pip's father. Janeway and Wexler produced marvels of modern architecture, chief among these being the "Janeway House." As part of the estate, as a way of perhaps connecting to a father he saw as silent, remote and uncaring, Walker wants the House, and is even willing to buy what he presumes will be Nan's share. He is crushed when he discovers that his father (with a cavalierness Nan declares "wicked") willed the House entirely to Pip.

Walker then searches for meaning and solace in his father's journal, recently discovered in the now decrepit loft space Janeway and Wexler once shared. Walker begins to read, hoping for insight, for a bridge to the past. But he is disappointed to find the journal cryptic to the point of mendacity. "Three days of rain," he says. "A fucking weather report. Who does that?" Then Ned finds a line in the journal, very faint, barely visible in a certain light, that illuminates the past, at least for him. Satisfied, he burns the journal, declaring he no longer wants or needs the House.

What follows is apocalyptic, in the sense that it is a revelation, opaque to Nan and Walker, but apparent to the audience, as to what really transpired in the lives of Lina, Ned and Theo, as the actors who first portray Nan (Barbara Uterhardt) and Walker (Michael Henry Harris) and Pip (Justin Sims) now play their respective parents. Ned's (apparent) aloofness, the cryptic comments in his journal, the creative genius behind the partnership's architectural greatness, all prove to be mutable, changing with the shifting sands of perception.

OnStage's production cunningly plays with this idea of shifting perception. The loft set transforms from abandoned and decrepit to clean and modern with the shift in focus from the children to the parents. Mostly done via "makeover" (new curtains, bedclothes, art on the walls), there is, however, an odd thing happening with the dirt marring the plaster. In the livable space, the smudges and fingerprints look like artistic stenciling – yet nothing has changed except the perspective. Another nod to this concept, I thought, was Lina's costume, a frothy little confection of peach lace, outwardly very prim and ladylike. The color, however, acted almost like a body stocking, and I got the definite impression of nudity, though the actress was completely clothed. Finally, Onstage has chosen to present the play in their second space, a much more intimate venue than the main stage. The traditional confines of the stage are broken in Act II, and the boundaries of the action push against the audience, heightening the sensation of fluid space.

The central image of the play, the Janeway House, is said to be a creation of such singular beauty that it "embodied the ideal of architecture as frozen music." Every room, explains Nan, owing to its many fenestrations, is a unique experience, filled with "liquid light." It's like living in a prism," says Walker, "except it never gets hot." The Janeway House was the most livable of modern houses, and was made famous by an iconic picture in Life Magazine. But many people, according to Walker, turn down the offer to visit the actual house because they don't want to ruin the "experience of the photo." I was reminded of a Magritte painting captioned "This is not a pipe." The photo is not the House. (There's actually an argument about a preliminary drawing of the house, whether it is or is not, in actuality, a different house altogether.)

Lina, having been drenched in the rain, asks Ned to "talk small" to her while she changes. As Lina physically disrobes (from the nude transparency of the peach lace), Ned emotionally uncovers his heart. This is a man for whom talking is torture, whose therapy for his stuttering consists in giving himself permission to breathe as if he had a right to the air. Yet Lina only wants to hear the sound of another human voice: it doesn't matter what is said. It's just the sound of his voice that is soothing. It seems to soothe Ned, also, and as his stutter gradually disappears, his voice becomes hypnotic. Ned begins to tell Lina his only ambition, which is to go through life unattached to any one place or thing, a sort of vagabond prince, and at the end of this verbal "ramble" (echoing the physical ramble Ned yearns for), the audience is treated to a revelation. It's such a quiet moment that it's as if the audience has been collectively holding its breath, and then releases it in a unison sigh.

Michael Henry Harris is terrific as Ned, especially in the contrasting emotional notes he's able to hit as Ned and Walker. Walker is everything Ned is not, monopolizing center stage, the conversation, everyone's time and attention. He is so difficult to be around, that even when he is absent, he demands attention and worry as he precipitously drops out of sight. In a telling exchange, Pip suggests to Nan that she just imagine Walker dead, because it would be easier that way. Harris' Ned, by contrast, is still, silent. There's a flash of anger and arrogance (in his argument about the drawing of the house) that presages Walker, but for the most part Ned is mute until Lina unlocks something in him with her needfulness and we get the beautifully mesmerizing scene above.

Justin Sims has the journeyman role here, as Pip is a man thoroughly contented with his life, striving only to prove that just because he's happy doesn't mean he's a moron, and Theo is too self involved to be sympathetic. But Sims does a smoothly credible job (it's very easy to imagine him as a soap opera star), and his nightly take (as Pip) on Oedipus is a regular crowd pleaser. Nan, too, if not happy, is thoroughly contented. Uterhardt plays her with a touch of despairing motherliness, but no brittleness. As Lina, she has more room to flex her muscle, and we see Lina's inchoate yearning to be something special (even if it's an eccentric alcoholic), that will eventually doom her to madness.

Three Days of Rain is an extremely referential play, both to a greater body of work (Niebuhr, Shakespeare; Sophocles to touch on a few) and to itself (Walker has become so much the vagabond his father wanted to be that he keeps all his money in traveler's checks; the House, celebrated for its openness and grace, was built for people Ned says he left because they had no grace, etc.) so as to create a richly textured layering of meaning. [Even the title exists on several levels within and without the play.] Certainly the play is enjoyable on its face without delving any more deeply than Pip's comical exegesis of Oedipus, but the back and forth echo play lends itself to a constant sense of déjà vu as relationships are illuminated, connections drawn and discarded, spirits lifted or crushed. Three Days of Rain resonates with light and shadow, illusion and reality, secrets and revelations. This play shimmers, echoes, turns, and as Ned begins, at the end, to draw the Janeway House, it becomes opaque once more, a mystery as fascinating in the remembering as in the telling.


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