“This is the day, Nan. We’re going to finally find out what belongs to us.”
“Three Days of Rain” at the Calhoun Cabaret tells the story of two architects and their children’s quest to piece together their parents’ legacies.
Beginning in a sparse Manhattan studio apartment, siblings Walker (Tommy Bazarian ’15) and Nan (Christine Shaw ’14) are reunited after a year of separation. Walker, who disappeared after their father Ned Janeway’s birthday, has returned to take possession of the Janeway House, his father’s architectural masterpiece. They meet with their childhood friend Pip (Paul Hinkes ’15), whose father, Theo, was Ned’s business partner. The three of them read Ned’s will only to discover that the Janeway House was bequeathed not to his children but to Pip. Tensions escalate as Walker accuses Pip of having manipulated his father, and what ensues is a whirlwind account of their parents’ parallel and interconnected lives.
The set of the production is designed like the blueprint of a house. Since the stage is surrounded by a skeletal frame built of white beams, you are given the sense of entering an architect’s mind. Near the beginning of the first scene, the characters address the audience in a sort of monologue, chronicling the key moments of their parents’ lives with poetry and emotion. Walker breathlessly describes the Janeway House, designed by his father, as work of such architectural brilliance that it could only have been created from “an intuition held in reserve.”
“There’s a different kind of light in every room, at every hour,” Walker says.
The house is the fantastical creation of Ned’s silent, tortured mind, made even more complex by his wife Lina’s insanity. The plot is forwarded by Walker’s discovery of his father’s journal. His first entry reads: “1960, April 3-5. Three days of rain.” In the following scenes, the same actors play the roles of Ned (Bazarian), Theo (Hinkes) and Lina (Shaw), retracing the fateful happenings of that documented downpour.
While this shift in perspective is a little abrupt, the actors’ seamless chemistry makes it work. Bazarian, as Ned, skillfully embodies the role of an anxious, slightly neurotic young architect trying to make a breakthrough. As Theo, Hinkes provides force to the narrative, but the story is really about the two lovers dancing around him. While Shaw is slightly too melodramatic as Nan, she portrays her always-on-edge mother, Lina, with grace and balance. Even though she comes across as poised and witty, we are also able to glimpse a bit of the madness that will plague her in the future. On a rainy drive through Ned’s neighborhood, the two of them run into each other and proceed to spend the next three days braving the downpour in each other’s company. Between salad and religious debate, Ned and Lina fall in love.
The banter between the characters sets a rhythmic pace for the play. Each anecdote leads to another, and the dialogue is rife with literary references to keep you on our toes. Back in the present, the conflict between Walker and Pip is caused by Pip muttering, “Oedipus doesn’t make sense.” Other times, though, the allusions probably cause more confusion than amusement: for instance, when Walker burns his father’s journal, he declares, “I feel like Hedda Gabler!”
The pieces of introspective monologue interwoven between action scenes help to slow down the otherwise accelerated pace of the production. There is a particularly poignant scene at the beginning where Walker stands alone on stage and recalls his 8-year-old self chasing a drug-crazed mother down “thousands of flights of stairs.”
“She was rocking back and forth on her haunches,” he said, “muttering to herself in a language of her own invention. And then she ran.”
Through a child’s eyes, he describes the almost surreal feeling that overcame him as he watched his mother escape from his reach and propel her body through the apartment building’s glass façade: “There was this moment, before the blood started, that she looked like crystal.”
The plot of “Three Days of Rain” is simple, but endearingly so. There are times when the narrative is predictable, but the play doesn’t put on any airs — it lays out life as it is through the eyes of young, struggling architects. As Ned proclaims to Lina, “There’s no secret to be found: just energy, whims, personality!”