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REVIEW: "Three Days of Rain"—Manhattan Theatre Club

“You know, the thing is with people who never talk, the thing is you always suppose they're harboring some enormous secret. But, just possibly, the secret is, they have absolutely nothing to say.”

Originally produced in Manhattan Theatre Club’s 1997-1998 season, the incredible original stars (Patricia Clarkson, “Six Feet Under;” John Slattery, “Mad Men;” and Bradley Whitford, “The West Wing”) reunites for a fresh look at Richard Greenberg’s poignant and romantically unsettling Pulitzer-Prize-nominated play, available for limited streaming March 11-25, 2021.

Richard Greenberg is the author of “The Babylon Line,” “Our Mother’s Brief Affair,” and “The Assembled Parties” (Tony, Drama Desk nominations). As much mystery as family drama, “Rain” demonstrates in heartbreaking detail how little we know about the people who most shape our lives.

The bittersweet elegy is helmed by Evan Yionoulis, who has directed new plays and classics in New York, across the country, and internationally. She opened Manhattan Theatre Club’s Biltmore Theatre with Richard Greenberg’s “The Violet Hour,” directed his “Everett Beekin” at Lincoln Center Theatre and received an Obie Award for her direction of his “Three Days of Rain” at Manhattan Theatre Club, having directed their premieres at South Coast Repertory. Other critically acclaimed productions directed by Ms. Yionoulis include Adrienne Kennedy’s “He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box” and “Ohio State Murders” (Lortel Award for Best Revival).

Essentially two interrelated one-act playlets, the characters’ names are more than a little telling. Walker is an aimless, emotionally unstable man who quite literally spends his life walking the world, settling nowhere and disappearing for months on end. His return to Manhattan prompts a visit from Nan, the loving but exasperated sister who, as her name implies, is more caregiver than sibling, and Pip, an affable soap opera star who, like the Dickens character of the same name, is about to receive an unexpected inheritance.

Meeting in the dilapidated, long-vacant downtown Manhattan apartment where their fathers, then young, struggling architects, were once roommates, the trio is shown both before and after a conference with lawyers in which they learn who gets what from the considerable estate of Walker and Nan’s father, Ned. On top of the list: the world-famous Long Island house designed by their fathers and considered a work of late 20th century architectural genius (think Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Fallingwater”).

By turns speaking to one another and directly to the audience, Walker, Nan and Pip struggle to understand the will, the parents and their own lives, no easy task given the facades constructed by the earlier generation.

Ned, it seems, was an unloving, distant man, his unbalanced wife, Lina, “like Zelda Fitzgerald’s less stable sister,” in Walker’s words. Theo, Pip’s father and Ned’s partner, was, apparently, the architectural visionary responsible for the firm’s success.

Starved for insight and understanding of his forebears, Walker studies a journal, written by his father and found hidden in the vacant apartment. This, too, is no easy task: A man of few words, Ned sums up several pivotal days in 1960 with the cryptic phrase “three days of rain.”

Try as he might, Walker never understands the reference, but the viewers get it. The entire second act flashes back in time, with the cast portraying the previous generation. Needless to say, the family myths to which Walker, Nan and Pip cling are groundless and far from the truth.

Though talky and, particularly in the first act, a bit slow-moving, Greenberg’s play is filled with graceful passages that are sometimes melancholy, occasionally harrowing and, often, quite funny. Nan’s recollection of one of her mother’s breakdowns is particularly haunting, all the more so when we later see her mother in youth, an emotionally delicate Southern woman that might have been straight out of Tennessee Williams territory.

Greenberg apparently has streamlined his play from earlier stagings (one character has been eliminated), but Director Yionoulis finds just the right tone of sorrow and inexhaustible hope, pulling fine performances from her excellent cast, particularly in the better, more poignant second half. Decisively, for a play that so movingly illustrates the difference between house and home, “Three Days of Rain” seems to have found both quite convincingly.

Chris Daniels

Arts & Entertainment Reviewer

The Show Report


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