The Theatreguide.London Review
Three Days of Rain
Apollo Theatre Spring 2009
Richard Greenberg's 1997 drama touches on a number of topics, notably the inability to understand the past and the way it shaped the present, and the way families or friendships cast people in certain roles that may not be who they really are.
Thirty-five years before the play's opening, two young architects were partners. One died young and the other more recently, and his son and daughter, along with the partner's son, gather for the reading of the will.
The brother is a rootless and unhappy man, with the odd ability to make others feel responsible for him and guilty in their own relative happiness while he constantly feels he has let them down.
But we sense that, to a certain extent, he has been cast as The Crazy One, and pushed into a fate he might just as easily have escaped.
Similarly, the friend is The Dim One, though, as he is moved to point out, 'Being in a good mood is not the same thing as being an idiot.' And even the solid and stolid sister has secrets that don't fit her image.
The major event of Act One is that they discover some things about their parents, and guess at others, that make the past make more sense to them, and even offer some hope for their own futures.
Act Two is a flashback to 1960, with the same three actors playing the two architects and the woman one will eventually marry, and its major revelation is that everything the young people figured out in Act One is wrong.
What really happened has few surprises - you'll guess it all within five minutes of meeting the new characters - and it is also less satisfying an explanation for subsequent events than the Act One hypothesis was.
That is one of the play's points - that history is messy and not open to the kind of simple cause-and-effect explanations we'd like.
But it is also dramatically messy, as you are likely to leave the theatre thinking 'If that's what really happened back then, then why did A, B, C and D happen later?'
In the past, too, people are cast and shaped in assigned roles, and once one of the young men is labelled as the genius and the other as the plodder, we don't have to be told who will prove to have the real talent.
Under Jamie Lloyd's direction the three performers - James McAvoy, Nigel Harman and Lyndsey Marshal - get to play two very different characters each, though the script doesn't really give them much depth to work with.
The young man's unexplained rootlessness in Act One ultimately feels as arbitrary and imposed on him as his father's stutter in Act Two, and you can't help thinking that the Act Two woman was made a Southerner just to allow for the comment that she is like 'Zelda Fitzgerald's less stable sister.'
Meanwhile that accent and that stutter turn too much of Act Two into mechanical acting exercises without a whole lot of character behind them.
Three Days of Rain does provoke some thought and does offer some comment on how people relate to each other. But it is likely to leave you feeling that there is less there than meets the eye.
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