Monday, May 30, 2011

Talent Rains at South Coast Rep

Have you ever found your parent's journal? Would it be an amazing discovery to learn the secret thoughts and events that carved a youthful life path or would you avoid the past and all its familial pain? In South Coast Repertory’s production of Richard Greenberg’s “Three Days of Rain," director David Emmes and three engaging actors deliver a beautifully shaded interpretation of Greenberg's script about how easily the past can be misinterpreted and how skewed our perceptions of our parents can sometimes be. Three actors. Six characters. One secret.

The story begins in the mid-90s. A famous architect has died and his son, Walker, has stumbled on the abandoned loft in Manhattan where the practice was forged. Here Walker, effervescent but weighed down by desolation and instability, takes a short solo voyage into his family’s disturbed past, until interrupted by his more emotionally grounded sister Nan. Walker and Nan gather with their childhood friend, Pip, for the reading of their father’s will. The three become embroiled in a struggle over what their parents left them and why. The audience is taken back thirty five years in the second act, to the time just before these characters were conceived to illustrate just how far off assumptions can be. The actors take on the roles of their former characters' parents, playing out another triangle in the same New York loft.


Kevin Rahm as the emotionally precarious Walker gives a touching rendition of a person struggling to come to terms with himself and his psyche. Rahm’s talent comes to full fruition with his Act Two portrayal of Ned, a young stuttering and shy architect who realizes the full scope of his passion for both his business partner’s lover and architecture.

Susannah Schulman as Walker’s older sister Nan, delivers a beautifully laced performance delicately balancing her contentment with marriage and motherhood with the agitation she feels towards being abandoned by her brother. In Act Two, Schulman’s portrayal of Lina, the Southern belle, masterfully displays an intoxicating female bravado meant to mask the despair lying just under the wit, and reveals the tenderness behind her polished feminine facade.

While Nan and Walker are like grounded skydivers dragging their childhoods behind them, Pip sails along with a happy go lucky countenance. Deftly played by Brendan Hines, he's able to enjoy life. Hine’s role as Pip's father, Theo, is ironically more complex but less developed, seemingly there only to spur Lina and Ned through the plotline.

There is a seventh character. The loft, created by set designer, Thomas Buderwitz, is the place where all the drama unfolds. As they say, “If walls could talk…” Buderwitz’s walls do, with the steamed-up windows whispering the secrets of decades past. The rain on the loft windows is set design at its best; however the storm showers outside the loft front door were too distracting, as the mechanics were visible and drew attention away from the unfolding story. Sometimes characters upstage their counterparts and that’s never a good thing. Like a perfume, a set should not overpower the actors, but enhance.

The clear and honest acting and directing brings the story to shimmering light, presenting subtly shifting moods, changing as the weather does, allowing the audience to bask in the play’s haunting exploration of love, infidelity, inheritance and the way those in the present can so easily misinterpret the past.

Three Days of Rain, Richard Greenberg’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play about two generations of intertwined families, returns to South Coast Repertory May 13-June 12. 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Ends June 12. (Call for exceptions.) $28-$66. (714) 708-5555 Photos by Henry DiRocco.

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