A Question of Inheritance
A lot of the biggest influences on a person’s life are forever unknowable to them. That’s the theme of Richard Greenberg’s THREE DAYS OF RAIN, a character drama from 1997. The story is a highly detailed study of the fraught interactions between a mentally ill brother, his long-suffering sister, and their unappreciated friend in the then-present day, and their similarly-situated parents in 1960. Directed by Derek Van Barham, BoHo’s production stars three amazingly versatile actors who are equally believable and captivating while playing contrasting roles in each act.
What Does a Person Really Need to Get Established?
In 1995, the thirtyish Walker Janeway (Kyle Curry) is languishing in a miserable Manhattan loft, unable to sleep from incessant street noise and his usual excessive energy. We soon gather that, despite his accommodations, he is extremely rich, due to being the son of a famous architect, Ned Janeway (also Curry). Tomorrow, he tells us, he will inherit even more, because his return to the country will allow his father’s will to be read. Walker’s sister, Nan (Katie Black-Spence), is quite displeased with him for having disappeared for nearly a year—he does this often—but he makes a convincing case that receiving a famous house designed by their father’s firm for their family will provide him with some much-needed stability. She agrees on the condition that Walker abandon a journal by their father he has found in the loft. This set-up, and window on this brother-sister relationship gain in complexity when step-brother Pip arrives in the scene.
With Pip present, we get much more of the story of how the three have competed for each other’s affections and feared being displaced their whole lives. But what exactly happened to their parents that caused such a weird, uncomfortable relationship between their families remains a mystery to them.
The audience is privileged with that information during the second act, when Black-Spence takes over the role of Lina, Nan and Walker’s mother, and Kourtis takes over as Pip’s father, Theo. Lina was as unbalanced as Nan is stable (Nan described her as reminiscent of Tallulah Bankhead and an older version of Walker), while Theo is as arrogant and insecure as Pip is easy-going and steadfast. And while Walker talks so much he even interrupts his sister’s monologue, Ned is a circumspect stutterer who nurses the feelings of others—to a point.
BoHo Theatre’s Actors Make Much of Their Material
Since Greenberg’s characters are all highly-educated intellectuals, he is free to pepper the play with witty, esoteric references. However, the characters all have distinctive voices, which the actors ably assume for the entirety of the play’s substantial running time. As Walker, Curry perfectly mimics the vocal inflections and body language of people with adult ADHD and anxiety disorders. This is crucial to the play’s success, for while we see that Walker is highly intelligent, so are Nan and Pip, and we have to share in their opinion that he is more immature than malicious to sympathize with them for allowing him a place in their lives.
Black-Spence, too, expertly plays a character, Lina, who is toxic in the long-term but not intentionally, and not completely. She also rocks a magnificent early 60s outfit by costume designer Jos N. Banks. Kourtis plays the most easy-going character in the first act and the most insecure one in the second, which is a more subtle turn-around since neither is mentally ill but a demonstration of equally deft acting.
Making THREE DAYS Work Today
Another subtle, but major, contribution is that of sound designer Kallie Rolison. Her contemporary music selections for the preshow acknowledge that this play is now twenty years old and that it inhabits a different theatrical landscape, but there’s still a lot of value in exploring the dynamics Greenberg set up. In fact, THREE DAYS OF RAIN may even benefit from a more distanced perspective. Director Derek Van Barham finds ways of keeping the play moving without being distracting, and the visuals, by lighting designer G. Maxin IV, scenic designer Patrick Ham, and props designer Natasza Naczas establish two distinct worlds for the actors to inhabit. With everything set up for them, the three-person ensemble memorably gives life to this challenging and touching work.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
All photos courtesy of Amy Boyle Photography
Now through June 25
Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00 pm
Sundays at 2:00 pm
Running time is two hours and twenty minutes with one intermission.
Heartland Studio, 7016 N Glenwood Ave, Chicago
Visit BoHoTheatre.com or call 866-811-4111
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.