Thursday, July 30, 2015

Review: 'Three Days of Rain'

Unbalanced acting fails to capture Greenberg's fascinating themes.

Review: ‘Three Days of Rain’

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Robert Ian Cutler, Matt Sherlock and Jessica Snow in Three Days of Rain (photo credit: John Donges)

By Jim Rutter


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 

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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