Richard Greenberg's 1997 Three Days of Rain poses challenges for any company, and Quince Productions illustrates these difficulties in its unbalanced staging at Walnut Street Theatre's Studio 5.
Three Days essentially is two plays set in the same run-down Manhattan studio. The first takes place in 1995 and involves Walker and Nan, children of Ned Janeway, a recently deceased member of a famous architectural team, and their friend Pip, son of the other architect, Theo Wexler. In the second, in 1960, Ned and Theo are launching their firm and figuring out their relationships with Lina. The same cast must flesh out each set of characters.
Therein lies Quince's biggest problem. Greenberg grounded his second act in naturalistic dialogue of people fighting, drinking, falling in love, the last centering on the shifting affections of Lina (Jessica Snow), later the mother of Walker and Nan, and Ned (Mark Sherlock), plus the professionally challenged Theo (Robert Ian Cutler). The script offers idiosyncracies (a Southern accent, a stutter) as anchors, and Snow and Sherlock latch on to these to yield engaging, if incomplete, performances.
Act One functions as a bit of a mystery. Walker (Sherlock), Nan (Snow) and Pip (Cutler) meet to settle Ned's estate; an entry in his journal and the choices he made in his will cloud their memories and fracture their friendship.
Here, long monologues of direct address fill in exposition. None of the actors handles these with much care. Sherlock, whose stutter is a source of timing in Act Two, falters through the humor of Act One; while his lines contain some howlers, he evokes chuckles at best.
Cutler, however, sounds a single note of exasperation all night and flounders through both acts. Moreover, director Rich Rubin miscast him: Greenberg's script repeatedly refers to Pip as a famous, handsome TV actor, always running around "shirtlessly . . . doing things." But Cutler doesn't even manage an upright posture to offset his sunken chest, stooped shoulders, and obvious paunch. By comparison, Bradley Cooper played this role on Broadway; locally, Ian Merrill Peakes lent his fratboyish good looks to the Arden's 1999 production.
With a better cast, I could have overlooked much. Greenberg's fascinating script, with its themes of parental guilt, sibling alienation and attempts at restitution, can captivate. It just didn't happen here.
Three Days of Rain
Presented by Quince Productions through April 26 at the Walnut Street Theatre Studio 5.
Information: 215-627-1088 or www.quinceproductions.com