If Tennessee Repertory Theatre’s current production of Three Days of Rain triggers a sense of déjà vu, it might be because Mockingbird Theatre staged the same play locally just six years ago. Even more coincidental, the Rep’s artistic team of David Alford and Rene Copeland were the same guys who staged Rain at Mockingbird back in 2000. Admittedly, Alford/Copeland’s decision to fill an important slot in their five-play season with a work they had already done was a bit of a puzzler. But if their goal was to do the play greater justice the second time around, then the good news is they succeeded.
Richard Greenberg’s script is a cleverly constructed drama set in New York City, where a thirtysomething brother and sister reunite following the death of their father. Their meeting takes place in the loft space where their parents first lived in the ‘60s. The peripatetic and troubled sibling Walker (Alford) has arrived in an attempt to grapple with long-unresolved personal and family issues. He and sister Nan (Shelean Newman), who mostly hash things over in a prickly fashion, are joined by Pip (Ross Brooks), the son of their father’s partner in an architecture firm. Pip, it turns out, had an affair with Nan years ago. That wasn’t known to Walker, who apparently also had unrequited feelings for Pip.
The Act One setup offers intrigue and snappy dialogue, but Greenberg’s real writerly triumph comes in Act Two, when we flash back to the 1960s and see Walker and Nan’s parents (played by Alford and Newman) and Pip’s dad (Brooks) engaged in their own personal angst, which thus provides the audience with a kind of reverse foreshadowing that brings clarity to the emotional storms witnessed with the younger generation.
Greenberg places a conveniently revealed diary into the scenario, which seems a little too easy a device for linking past to present, but it serves its purpose.
The performances, under Copeland’s attentive direction, take place on Gary Hoff’s plainly arty set, which basks in the glow of Phillip Franck’s warmly effective lighting. Alford and Newman are six years older now than the first time they played these roles in the Mockingbird production, but they haven’t lost their connection to the characters, and the casting works. Alford, in particular, shines in his Act Two portrayal of Ned, a sensitive and quirky but ultimately quite likable fellow afflicted with a stutter.
Maybe the Rep really restaged Three Days of Rain because it was budget-friendly and afforded the principals the chance for a slam-dunk success. At any rate, the bottom-line result is smart, edgy and thoughtful professional regional theater that represents our town at its best. The play continues through Nov. 4 at TPAC’s Johnson Theater.
Boiler Room Theatre’s production of Cabaret is a frustrating effort that flouts art as often as it achieves it. When the performances go for the decadence and uncertain fearful politics of Nazi-era Berlin, it’s energetic and pointedly entertaining. Billy Ditty’s up-front (and out-front) cavorting in the role of the Emcee is right in line with the seedy naughtiness of the famed Kander and Ebb piece. Moreover, he finds perfect support in Lauri Bright’s leggy choreograph, which features a deliciously sleazy chorus of Kit Kat Girls (and Boys). Unfortunately, their numbers are the only things that compel.
The main story concerning British cabaret singer Sally Bowles (Jennifer Richmond) and American writer Clifford Bradshaw (Daron J. Bruce) is rendered in one bring-down sequence after another, and it’s easy enough to point the accusing finger at director Corbin Green, who offers his actors nothing imaginative in the way of blocking or motivation. (The set, which Green also designed, doesn’t help matters either, since its sole saving grace—its functionality—leaves the actors in aesthetic limbo.)
Richmond and Bruce twist slowly in the wind of aimless, bloodless declamations, making all but senseless their characterizations. Bruce, in particular, turns in a cardboard shell of a performance, firstly because he’s badly miscast but equally so because he hasn’t a clue as to the personal qualities he’s supposed to be projecting. Richmond has the superficial look and presence, but she’s not right in her role, either, carefully avoiding all of Bowles’ necessary sass and beguiling affectation. Richmond’s solo singing is disappointing, too. She’s got a voice all right, but every successive ascent up the scale is fraught with disconcerting adventure.
The subplot of the romance between aging landlady Fraulein Schneider (Anne Bomar) and her boarder Herr Schultz (Dan McGeachy) comes off with a ton more romance and heart, and it benefits in meaning from its more direct link to the encroaching Third Reich terror.
Musical director Jamey Green leads a six-piece combo stylishly through the mostly minor-key, ’30s-era music-hall score.
Cabaret continues through Nov. 4.