Penang Players’ Stages Richard Greenberg’s ‘Three Days of Rain’
Richard Greenberg’s play “Three Days of Rain,” is unsettling. The bond between family members is a triple-braided cord and not easily broken. The play and players explore this bond, this glue that is supposed to bind a family together.
The audience is taken through the years.
Act 1, in 1995 the grown-up children coming together at the reading of their father’s will.
Act 2, in 1960, the parents at the same age as the children starting out their lives.
That glue? It is not loving actually. It’s TRUST.
It takes years to build. Seconds to break.
And forever to repair.
Three Days of Rain was nominated for the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
THE PLAY | THREE DAYS OF RAIN
The things that happen on the day of a funeral marks the depth and restless of those left behind. In particular, the death of a father. On the day, celebrated architect Ned Janeway died, his troubled son, Walker (Christopher Pressler), disappeared into the night.
NAN JANEWAY | LENA JANEWAY
His older sister, Nan (Anna Tan) is left to deal with everything else.
A mother who has severe paranoid schizophrenia.
A mother who spent most of her life institutionalized.
Raising her own children in Boston.
And looking for Walker. And looking for Walker. And looking for Walker.
For 365 day. 365 nights. Nan is plagued with visions, imaginations of what could possibly have happened to Walker. Sleepless. Pained.
If you can even imagine what’s it’s like to have a family member go missing. Then you know her troubles.
WALKER JANEWAY | NED JANEWAY
Walker was 8 when it happened. They were living in their downtown Manhattan apartment Ned Janeway (Christopher Pressler) built. Ned was behind his newspaper fort after dinner. Walker was playing. Nan was doing dishes.
Lena Janeway suddenly took off, racing miles of staircases in her downward spiral with Walker and Ned chasing after her.
Walker remembers his mother crashing into the glass that splintered like her mind. There was a brief moment when the sound of the crash and the flying splinter froze in his mind. Then, there was blood. EVERYWHERE.
Walker hid in the laundry room for 10 hours before he was found. Lena was “fixed up good” at the hospital and stayed there.
The family returned to the home and no one ever talked about that incident. As Nan said. It was something that happened, in my family.
Ned for all his disdain for children withdrew completely into himself.
PIP WEXLER | THEO WEXLER
Ned Janeway in his old age befriended the light-hearted Pip, the son of his former partner, Theo Wexler. Pip, unlike Walker, is good-natured and funnily enough, is a handsome soap opera actor.
Unlike Walker who is emotionally fragile, Pip takes out his frustrations in the gym and feel better after working out.
Walker, Nan and Pip gathered to hear Ned’s will where the three learnt that Janeway House was left to Pip rather than Ned’s children.
The beloved celebrated and much coveted Janeway House that Walker wanted as an inheritance from his cold distant father.
Walker was crushed.
Walker took to walking and living off the streets in Tuscany, Italy for a year after his father’s death. The son of a celebrated genius of an architect has no roof over his head. No place to lay his head.
The restless Walker wants The Janeway House for himself. Perhaps it’s a symbol of parental affection that he yearns for that he never got.
For all his mental superiority to Pip, Walker hated many things. His attraction to Pip. Pip spending days and hours making small talk about football with his father.
“Talking about football!” Walker screamed in his head.
“Pip and my father! Talking about football!”
Walker wasn’t the chosen heir. Pip inherited the birthright of the firstborn apparently.
Love wasn’t the glue, remember.
Life is unfair.
At the fallout, Pip confessed to an affair with Nan when they were teenagers.
When Walker returned to Manhattan, he uncovered his father’s old journal in the loft of the Long Island house that Ned built for his own parent’s years ago.
That journal, so frigging brief. With pages of pages of events that Walker remembers had one sentence remarks at best.
Who writes crap like that?
His eyes devoured a three-day entry that intrigued him immensely. He shows that to Nan. He reads it to her. Again and again.
Three Days of Rain.
Wtf is that?
The actors who play the grown-up kids return in the second act to play the parents. The contrast drawn is sharp and definitive.
Walker with his verbal diarrhoea returns as the father Ned, a shy stutterer. Nan’s stiffness and terseness contrast with Lina’s exuberance. As for the good-natured Pip, his father Theo’s braggadocio ignorance was a personal stance when he couldn’t design.
The second act, we’re transported to 1960 where the shy stuttering Ned Janeway partnered up with the eloquent Theo Wexler. The dilapidated loft that Walker staked his claims on was the design studio for Ned and Theo.
Both fine and handsome young men were enthralled by the charismatic Lina, a Southern belle. Theo’s fiery relationship with Lina was exhausting for both of them.
The quarrels too often and too loud were unbearable for Ned.
The brief lines in Ned’s journal that Walker puzzles over in the first act take on clarity in the second act.
Nan told Walker that their mother met their father one night at a park. Both of them were caught in a heavy downpour. Both went for a walk in the rain upset with life. The angst of being 20 something.
The tangled relationships of the older generation take on clarity.
Greenberg’s signature style for dialogue with fast furious torrents of cultural references (read American) may wear the audience down. It was a wet night of verbosity played to the hilt by the actors with effective light and soundscape. The environment was compelling, to say the least.
For the audience, this eavesdropping, this looking into the window of the past. It is I supposed a mark of adulthood to realise that your parents once lived lives of their own.
Children live with fragmented stories, bits of memories of their parents. It’s like discovering a guitar in the attic and finding out that their reclusive arthritis bedridden mother played and sang pop songs. Its finding stacks of the black and white photo in an old tin box with a stash of 1950s adult books that the father read as a teen. Or a crumpled dried leaf folded in a linen hanky pressed into a book.
Along these multi-faceted plains, (read pain) are these jagged pieces of personal histories. Things are done on a whim or a dare. Or certain eventualities.
At the end of which, we explore and second guess. What is our inheritance? Is it our DNA that becomes us?
Or do we realise, sadly?
What we have are mere moments.
Penang Players’ 25th Anniversary is marked by their staging of Richard Greenberg’s ‘Three Days of Rain’ at Stage 2 of Penangpac, Straits Quay, Penang.
Tickets are priced at RM45 for adults and RM35 for students and senior citizens above 60 and can be purchased at the Penangpac box office, online at ticketpro.com.my, or by calling 04-8991722.
Part of the proceeds from the show will benefit the Tenaganita Women’s Shelter.
Directed by American Christopher Preslar, this heart-warming and sometimes tragically funny play is about the intrinsic and deep-rooted sense of loneliness. Actors, Chris Culver, an American engineer currently working in Penang, and Anna Tan who has been dabbling in theatre since 1995.
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