On Theater: 'Three Days of Rain' returns to its birthplace

Fourteen years ago, South Coast Repertory produced the world premiere of "Three Days of Rain," solidifying a budding relationship with its author, Richard Greenberg, who went on to unveil eight other plays on the SCR stage, as well as several others elsewhere.

That seminal drama, "Three Days of Rain," is back at South Coast Rep in a stirring, thought-provoking revival painstakingly directed by David Emmes with a trio of superb performers taking the reins. It may linger a bit for some tastes during the second-act sequence in which its first act is explained, but the portrayals remain riveting.

Greenberg sets his two scenes in the same location, a building in Lower Manhattan, but the action transpires first in 1995 and, after intermission, 35 years earlier, as the progeny of two noted architects meet to learn their inheritance, then "become" their parents to explain the whys and wherefores of the initial sequence.

Emmes uses both the power of intemperate speech and the impact of prolonged silence as methods of delineating the three characters. Combined, these approaches constitute a wonderfully naturalistic path toward eventual understanding.

Kevin Rahm, perhaps best known as Lee on TV's "Desperate Housewives," leaps into the present-day guise of Walker, the architect's son, with both feet, locked in a duel between his wastrel character's excitement and his anti-social reticence. In the second act, as his father Ned, Rahm takes on the challenging task of fleshing out a stammerer and initiating a treacherous path to romance.

As his present-day sister and, in 1965, her character's mother, Susannah Schulman brilliantly depicts a realistic Boston housewife of today and a giddy, Southern-fried belle of yesteryear. Schulman is one of SCR's natural acting resources and turns in her usual memorable performance.

The third performer, Brendan Hines, takes on the roles of Pip, a vapid TV soap opera actor, and Theo, his father and Ned's 1965 partner. Neither role is overly demanding, but Hines is quite acceptable in both.

If the play has any weakness, it is Greenberg's prolonged indulgence on the sequence between Rahm and Schulman midway into the second act, depicting the mutual attraction between the pair. While nicely enacted, its plodding pace may have some playgoers nodding off or checking their watches.

Technically, "Three Days of Rain" is a masterpiece, beginning with Thomas Buderwitz's superbly mounted loft backdrop, shown in bare-bones format in the first act and nicely furnished in the second.

Holly Poe Durbin's costumes are well designed and the lighting of Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz are first rate — as is the falling rain effect that soaks the characters in the second act.

With a bit of tightening during the actual "Three Days of Rain," Greenberg's early triumph could stand even taller at South Coast Repertory.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

If You Go

What: "Three Days of Rain"

Where: South Coast Repertory Segerstrom Stage, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sundays until June 12

Cost: $28 - $66

Call: (714) 708-5555

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