`Rain' closes AXIS season

Theater

Play: Fluid acting, a clever concept and a neat stage trick make "Three Days of Rain" nice to look at, even if it could use more substance.

May 22, 2000|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Understanding the past is the chief issue explored in the final production of AXIS Theatre's season, Richard Greenberg's "Three Days of Rain." Despite its thought-provoking theme, the play is ultimately more clever than insightful.

The reading of a famous architect's will brings together his grown son, Walker (Randolph Hadaway), daughter, Nan (Donna Sherman) and business partner's son, Pip (Larry Malkus). Walker, who has suddenly surfaced after an unexplained year-long disappearance, discovers his late father's cryptic journal and, by the end of the first act, is certain he has unearthed a crucial truth about his taciturn dad. In Act 2, the three actors portray their parents 35 years earlier, and we see the reality that the next generation has blindly -- and as it turns out, erroneously -- guessed at.

"Three Days of Rain" presents an intriguing acting challenge, which AXIS' cast handles with fluid grace under Brian Klaas' direction. The play also gives the theater a chance to show off a nifty rain effect.

However, the sound design is far less successful. Voices are broadcast at various intervals, presumably in an attempt to create an if-these-walls-could-talk effect. But the voices are so fuzzy they're more distracting than evocative.

Although Greenberg clearly demonstrates how we often misconstrue -- or re-interpret for our own ends -- the secrets of our parents' lives, his play offers little emotional depth, an odd lack since romantic triangles figure prominently in both acts. Indeed, as conveyed by Sherman, Nan's concern for her wayward brother's welfare is the strongest connection displayed on stage.

"Three Days of Rain" may be a play about architects, but if it were a building, it would be more attractive than substantial.

Show times at AXIS, 3600 Clipper Mill Road, are 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, through June 18. Tickets are $12-$14. Call 410-243-5237.

AXIS has just announced its forthcoming ninth season, which will consist of five contemporary American shows by women writers: "Violet," a musical by Jeanine Tesori (Sept. 7-Oct. 15); "And Baby Makes Seven," by Paula Vogel (Nov. 2-Dec. 10); "Venus," by Suzan-Lori Parks (Jan. 11-Feb. 11); "Last Battle of the American Revolution," by Kimbeley Lynne (March 1-April 1); and "Good Night Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet," by Ann Marie MacDonald (April 19-May 20). Subscriptions are $40 before June 30; $45 thereafter.

Young Playwrights Festival

Center Stage will present staged readings of the top three entries in its 15th annual Young Playwrights Festival at 7 p.m. tonight in the Head Theater:

"The Beanstalk World Cup" is a comedy about three boys participating in a soccer game and a play at the same time. It was written by Sam Ligon, a seventh-grader at Glenwood Middle School.

"Middle Ground" is a drama about a Chinese-American student who is forced to confront his identity when war erupts between China and Taiwan. It was written by Chang Liu, a 10th-grader at Howard High School.

"Tale" is the festival's first musical, and focuses on teen-age relationships. It was written by two 12th-grade students at McDonogh School. Stephen Deline wrote the book, and the music was composed by Jonathan Waller. (A longer version of "Tale" was presented at McDonogh in March.)

The scripts were selected from 306 submissions by 314 students statewide. "It's going to be a very interesting evening of theater," said Sara Grove, festival coordinator. "It's such a neat range with the physical comedy and the very serious `Middle Ground' piece and then the musical."

The student writers spent May 13 at the theater working on editing and revisions with professional playwrights and directors. Rehearsals will take place today and, in another festival first, the students will also have a sound designer.

Tonight's program at Center Stage, 700 N. Calvert St., is free and open to the public. The evening will begin with an awards ceremony honoring the authors of the three shows, plus 11 other student playwrights whose work was deemed worthy of recognition. A reception will follow the readings. For more information, call 410-685-3200, Ext. 361.

Alliance workshop

The Baltimore Theatre Alliance is offering a Playwriting Workshop on June 3 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St. Panelists include Eugenia Collier, John Bruce Johnson, Harriet Lynn and Donald Owens. The fee is $20 for Alliance members, $30 for non-members. Call 410-783-0777.

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