By Jim Rutter
FOR THE INQUIRER
Richard Greenberg’s 1997 Three Days of Rain poses challenges for any company, and Quince Productions illustrates these difficulties in their unbalanced staging at Walnut Street Theatre’s Studio 5.
Three Days basically contains two plays in one. Both occupy a run-down Manhattan flat; the first act in 1995 with the children of a recently deceased member of a pair of famous architects, the second in 1960 showing the parents trying to launch their budding architectural firm. The same cast must flesh out the characters in each era.
And therein lies Quince’s biggest problem. Greenberg ground his second act in naturalistic dialogue of couple’s fighting, drinking and falling in love, which centers around the shifting affections of Lina (Jessica Snow) and Ned (Mark Sherlock) and the artistic inability of Theo (Robert Ian Cutler). The script offers idiosyncrasies (a southern accent, a stutter) as anchors, and Snow and Sherlock latch on to these to yield engaging, if incomplete performances.
Act one functions as a sort of mystery. The children Walker (Sherlock), Nan (Snow) and Pip (Cutler) meet to settle Ned’s estate; the choices in his will and a journal of his thought cloud their memories and fragment their friendships.
Here, long monologues of direct address fill in exposition, whch none of the cast handles with any care. Sherlock, whose stutter offers a source of timing in Act two, falters through the humor of act one. His lines contain some howlers, he only evokes chuckles at best.
Cutler, however, sounds a single note of exasperation all night and flounders through both acts. Moreover, director Rich Rubin miscast him. Greenberg’s script repeatedly refers to Pip as a famous, handsome television actor, implied on a soap opera or its nighttime equivalency (Dallas, Falcon Crest, whatever), always running around “shirtlessly…doing things.” But Cutler doesn’t even manage an upright posture to conceal his sallow chest, sunken shoulders and obvious paunch. By comparison, Bradley Cooper played this role on Broadway; locally, Ian Merrill Peakes lent his fratboyish good looks to the Arden’s 1999 production.
Quince’s set also disappoints; all three stagings I’ve seen featured falling water that reflects the title. With a better cast, I could have overlooked much more. Greenberg’s fascinating script and its themes of parental guilt, sibling alienation and attempts at restitution can captivate. It just didn’t happen here.
Three Days of Rain. Presented through April 26 at the Walnut Street Theatre Studio 5. Tickets $25. Information: 215-627-1088 or quinceproductions.com