Richard Greenberg’s “Three Days of Rain” seems, at first glance, an odd choice for the Theatre at Monmouth, the state’s official Shakespeare company. Set in 1995 and 1960, it is a witty and insightful character study with a modern sensibility.
Yet in the hands of director Kate Bergstrom and her cast, it is as funny and angst-filled as any of the Bard’s greatest studies in character such as “The Merchant of Venice” and “The Tempest.” The production is a welcome surprise and a stunning achievement for the actors, each of whom gives memorable performances.
“Three Days of Rain” revolves around Walker (Travis Johnson) and Lina (Meghan Leathers), the children of a silent architect and a mother institutionalized by madness. As the play opens, they meet in 1995 in an unoccupied studio apartment in Manhattan to prepare for the reading their father’s will. The siblings are joined by their childhood friend, Pip (Brad Wilson).
In Act Two, the three portray their parents, Ned, Nan and Theo, in 1960. The events that unfold after intermission not only inform and explain away some of the plot mysteries unsolved in the first act, they also deepen the characters’ dimensions. Like most grown children, Walker, Lina and Theo know almost nothing about what their parents were like as young, passionate adults.
Bergstrom builds a tight ensemble. She lets the actors’ play with Greenberg’s dialogue and turns them loose on the monologues. The director also uses the stage at Cumston Hall well. Despite the talky nature of the show, “Three Days of Rain” never feels static.
Wilson, Johnson and Leathers all attended Brown University and performed with the Trinity Repertory Theatre in Providence, Rhode Island, according to the program. In this show, they work so well together and their performances are so equally fine and intertwined that it is difficult to separate them.
Johnson’s performances as Walker and his father, Ned, are so distinctly different, it is hard to believe they are performed by the same actor. The manic son acts nothing like the calm, reticent father. The red hair and beard seems to be all the two have in common.
As Lina and Nan, Leathers gives equally disparate performances. More than any other character, her unbridled and passionate Nan, who teeters in Act Two on the edge of madness described in the first act, explains Lina’s tightly wound personality.
The charismatic engine that drives this production is Wilson. He is delightfully outrageous and proves in both roles that some apples don’t fall far from their trees. The moment Wilson steps on stage, the energy level amps up nearly tenfold.
All three actors are as talented and skilled are their elder peers that have worked at Monmouth for more than a decade. This trio is a welcome addition to the company.
The work of set designer Patrick Lynch, scenic artist Katherine Keaton, costume designer Michelle Handley, lighting designer Daniel Taylor and sound designer Rew Tippin underscore Greenberg’s themes of family alienation and the promise of new beginnings.
“Three Days of Rain” is funny and fascinating and worthy of an audience seeking theater that entertains and, perhaps, reflects the lives of those experiencing the show.
“Three Days of Rain” will be performed in repertoire through Aug. 15 at the Theatre at Monmouth. For information call 933.9999 or visit http://theateratmonmouth.org.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the names of two show characters.