Thursday, April 09, 2009

All Wet And Bothered - Three Days Of Rain - Theatre Review

Three Days of Rain - Apollo Theatre - London, UK - *** (out of 5)
Written by Richard Greenberg, Directed by Jamie Lloyd
Until May 9th 2009

This is the second time they've suckered me into this play with star power. Okay, the last time, the star power was a bit bigger when Julia Roberts, Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper performed this American play on Broadway, but now the Brits are doing it and sticking in James McAvoy. I know he's not HUGE yet but have you seen Atonement or Wanted or even The Chronicles of Narnia? Meet my future husband (assuming Rudd or Cooper aren't accepting my proposals).

So first off, while I hate to compare, it's all I could sort of do. Though all I remember from the Broadway revival was seeing JULIA ROBERTS in the flesh. And BRADLEY COOPER in the flesh. And PAUL RUDD in the flesh (though I've seen him in other plays before too). And I remember liking their performances a LOT (even Julia's) and I remember loving the set and the rain effect over the angled window and that architecturally, the apartment where the story takes place was quite interesting and memorable.

I also remember thinking the play was really interesting with a neat concept. The first act follows brother and sister Walker (McAvoy, Rudd on Broadway) and Nan (Lyndsey Marshal, Julia of course) and their childhood friend Pip (Nigel Harman, Cooper on Broadway) as they sort out their late fathers possessions who themselves, were architectural partners. A diary is found, assumptions are made, and apparently a big turning point happened when there were three days of rain. The second act then goes back in time to those three days of rain, when Walker, Nan and Pip's parents, now Ned (McAvoy), his architecture partner Theo (Harman) and Walker and Nan's mom Lina (Marshal) were about the same age as their kids were in the first act. Ah, clever right?

Get the same actors to play their parents in a different time setting? And a nice twist to the story right?


If it's done right. It's a great play to let actors play two different role,s and Julia has mentioned it was probably a bit too challenging for her first bout on Broadway, but hey, at least we get a really cool rain effect!

And in this new London version, boy does the rain come down. Whereas the Broadway version only had it in the background, the Apollo Theatre has a nice rain effect running at the front of the stage where the actors were constantly walking under, soaking themselves throughout the second act.

Yes, James McAvoy was wet. On stage. In front of me. And at one point while wearing a wife beater. Wet.

That alone was worth the price of admission. (And of COURSE I can't find any photos of it so you'll actually have to buy a ticket to see that).

Luckily, James, who actually has had a background in theatre, was surprisingly terrific on stage. While his American accent sometimes wavered or almost sounded TOO pronounced, his performance as both Walker (more of a tortured free spirit) and Ned (a reserved bookish man) were brilliantly controlled and he definitely commanded the stage with a star presence (which hence, explains why he's making it big on the big screen). McAvoy never needed to rely on big showy moves, but balanced between restraining himself and stealing the stage (even during his quiet scenes).

Sadly, his fellow British cast members were less up to the tasks. Which was a shame since Pip/Theo was played by Brit actor Nigel Harman, a handsome man of commanding stature (and seen in Donmar's Guys and Dolls and Eastenders). His American accent bordered on being racist, almost sounding like a stereotypical Jewish New Yorker from the days of Vaudeville (in both acts, including the modern first act). And his emotions essentially ran between happy and unhappy with a pout on his face.

Lyndsey Marshal fared a little better, as her Nan in the first act was terrific, and probably hit the notes Julia wasn't able to, bringing a freshness to the sister character who must try to keep everything together during their time of mourning. Her southern belle Lina in the 2nd act though failed to impress, but in part because I still had memories of Julia's southern routine that was pitch perfect for the role.

It doesn't help that upon this second viewing, Greenberg's play seems a bit less impressive and the twists and turns in the second act (that takes all of the first act to set up) seem less surprising and almost dull and convoluted. But what a great excuse for the rain effect! (and a wet James McAvoy!)

The set design by Soutra Gilmour is almost terribly mundane, with a regular box set with three walls, and a large space for the actors to get lost within. The building in question, which is supposed to be a major plot point, fails to show what architectural wonders Ned and Theo were supposed to be.

The direction attempts to utilize the large square space created by the 3 walled set as much as possible, leaving the front edge of the stage to become the outside alleyway for rain to fall, and Lloyd manages to make the actors move around the stage in an attempt to invigorate the 3 person play with as much enthusiasm as possible. Still, the rain, while kinda cool, seemed gimmicky, especially since there was no rain behind the windows in the apartment (uh, consistency? hello?).

Between Marshall's better acting as Nan, and a more intense set up, the first act flowed far better and remained more interesting than the second act which unravels far more of the mysteries.

The best part of the second act was watching James McAvoy do a complete 180 now as Ned, and watching him play reserved and shy in an old fashioned costume and nicely slicked back hair. His intensity remained, even with the quieter character, and it proved why this play is really more just a showcase for McAvoy's stage skills and star presence than anything else.

While I've actually really enjoyed the recent Broadway revival of Richard Greenberg's The American Plan, I seemed less impressed with his work here on Three Days of Rain this second go around as the weaknesses in the 2nd act (and the whole set up) seemed to unravel more beneath the gimmicks, an inconsistent cast, and without Julia Roberts to dazzle me. My eyes were a bit clearer to see the play for what it really is.

Still, did I mention James McAvoy is terrific in this play? And at one point in a white wife beater? And gets wet?

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

1 comment:

Esther said...

Another "future husband?" Sigh. You've got to just make up your mind and choose one already. But he is cute. ;-)

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