By Richard Greenberg.
Directed by Derek Van Barham.
Produced by BoHo Theatre.
Playing at Heartland Studio, Chicago.
The Reticent Father, Architect of Intrigue.
BoHo Theatre addresses the truth of relationships and the past in its current production of Richard Greenberg’s Three Days of Rain, a finalist for the 1998 Pulitzer Prize. Set in New York both in the ‘90s and then in the ‘60s, the play sketches the stories of two generations: two architecture business partners and their mutual love interest, and then the respective children of those two partners. Full of lies, betrayals, revelations, and the mystery of parental affairs, Three Days of Rain makes for a long but interesting family drama with some very strongly acted moments.
Act one puts us in the late ‘90s, New York, in the studio of Walker and Theo, two architects whose work has since become renown (well, at least Walker’s work has). Walker has recently died, and his estranged son Ned (Kyle Curry) has returned “home” for the reading of the will. Ned is a serial drifter, voluble to a fault, seemingly manipulative to an art, and cerebral to a neurotic degree. Squatting in his father’s old studio, Ned hasn’t slept or eaten for two days — but his energy is right up there once his sister Nan (Kate Black-Spence) arrives to take him to the reading of the will.
Ned, though, is more excited about a little black journal he’s found: his father’s. Reading from the cryptically terse entries of his father, Ned believes he’s discovered a way into the man he never knew. It wasn’t that he was always holding back, Ned posits, but rather that he never had anything to say. Nan wants nothing to do with the journal, and even bargains with Ned that if he gives up the journal she will give him their father’s prized house, which they both believe will be left to her.
There is, however, another beneficiary that the two were not considering. Pip (Niko Kourtis) is the son of Theo, Walker’s partner, and it turns out he is the recipient of the house. When the three return from meeting with the lawyers, the shock of the announcement leads to the spilling of old secrets: turns out Pip had been involved romantically with both Ned and Nan — and Ned didn’t know. In perhaps the best moment of the production, the otherwise smarmy and congenial Pip unloads on Ned for his selfish and manipulative tendencies. Both Pip and Ned leave agitated, but when Ned returns, he and his sister ceremoniously burn their father’s journal, putting to rest the mystery of the past.
Act two takes us back 35 years to the ‘60s, where in the now-furnished New York studio, Walker (Kyle Curry) and Theo (Niko Kourtis) live and work. And things are not exactly what we were led to believe in act one. Lina (Kate Black-Spence), a southern transplant taken by city intellectualism, is in a rocky relationship with the “brilliant” Theo, and the stuttering Walker seems no more than a checkered shirt in which to store a pencil protector. But as Theo’s belief in his own genius falters and sends him away, Walker and Lina strike up a romance of their own — which leads, at the end, to Walker beginning to sketch the house that would make his fortune, at the encouragement of Lina — Nan and Ned’s future mother.
There is much information missing from this synopsis that would give you the full scope of the story, but the subtlety of truth’s err is a principle point of the story, and so it’s best left out, here. Granted, there are several moments that lack subtlety altogether, such as the direct-address monologues in the first act that, for me, felt flat and rehearsed in this production (then again, I’m not a fan of the style). But the story as a whole is interesting, particularly in its two-part structure; and while the conclusion wasn’t any big show-stopping discovery, the characters were interesting enough that the journey I’d say was enjoyable.
With six roles and three actors, a lot no doubt rides on the actors’ performative skills. The first act felt rocky, in that I found it difficult to identify the “real” characters behind their attitudes: Ned is high-strung and rambles; Nan is quiet and brooding; and Pip is chummy and smiling. And while the conflict eventually brings out other depths in Nan and Pip, it felt a little too late for me to care; and Ned was never clarified, or redeemed for that matter, for me.
The second act felt a lot more solid, in large part due to Kate Black-Spence performance as Lina in which she gets to explore a wide range of emotions and conflicted feelings. Relative to the first act and what we heard of them as characters, Walker and Theo seemed to show more depth than their respective sons. Nevertheless, I never felt any strong attachments to any of the characters, and the show overall sometimes felt a bit more like a conceptual sketch of an idea about intergenerational “truths” than an expansive drama.
Three Days of Rain is a dialogue-heavy, cerebral-leaning drama that tends to emphasize its ideas over its pathos. In other words, there’s little pause for sentimentality to be found here. Depending on your own inclinations, this could make for a fruitful, post-show discussion, or it may leave you disconnected, as most if not all of the characters are just that: emotionally disconnected. That said, it is a strong script and an interesting story, so chances are you’ll find something to appreciate here.
Playing at the Heartland Studio, 7016 N Glenwood Ave., Chicago.