9:31 am
Thu September 2, 2004

Three Days of Rain

Like a well made building, a play rises above it's foundation, elevating the author's intent for the audience to see.

Wilmington NC – [Click the Listen button to hear Charles' commentary.]

The private lives of famous architects were the subject of public scorn in the early 20th century. Stanford White of McKim Meade & White, the foremost neoclassical architect of his time, was gunned down by a jealous husband in a New York restaurant; headlines lasted for weeks.

Frank Lloyd Wright's three - or was it four? - marriages are legendary for both outrage and tragedy.

Then came author Ayn Rand, whose novel The Fountainhead placed the angst-ridden architect Howard Rourk before the public. Rourk's self-absorbed preoccupation with his buildings instead of his clients was given life by Gary Cooper in a 1949 film noir, one of the first films to place the life of an eccentric architect before the public.

Mid-century the TV public was treated to a calmer - if only fictional - architect named Wilbur, who worked in his barn and conversed with the barn's onloy other occupant - a horse, of course - named Mr. Ed.

The Brady Bunch had an architect as the father -a nice guy, but he never seemed to do anything. Paul Newman played a heroic architect in The Towering Inferno. Richard Gerre starred as a love-torn architect with a wife, a girlfriend, and a daughter in the forgettable film Intersection.

My Architect, a film of the life of Lou Kahn, was recently in Wilmington and has been nominated for an Oscar.

And now we have the lives of two architects entwined in a 2-act play called Three Days of Rain, admirably directed by Lee Lowrimore tonight, this weekend, and next weekend in Thalian Hall's Studio Theatre.

Richard Greenburg's play opens with the frustrated meeting of the 3 adult children of the two architects, who struggle with their personal frailties and incomplete memories of their belated parents. Alternating between monologue and dialogue, they challenge the audience and each other with pieces of the past.

Act two brings some resolution as the same 3 actors portray their parents some 30-years earlier, and gradually re-draw their lives for the audience in a stirring performance full angst, innuendo, occasional comedy, surprise, and enough dramatic allusion to satisfy an Ibsen fan.

And they use one of my favorite architectural words: palimpsest. Now a palimpsest is a document or a drawing - or perhaps a play - that has been prepared, altered, erased, and re-drawn in an iterative process aimed at perfection. Three Days of Rain uses the lives of 2 architects to create a palimpsest of life, slowly sketching and revealing the truth as and architect would refine a sketch on layers of tracing paper.

This is a drama to see.