Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Three Days of Rain—Portland Center Stage—Pearl District

“Random Happiness”

This comedy-drama is written by Richard Greenberg and directed by Chris Coleman (PCS’s Artistic Director).  It is playing at their space, 128 NW 11th Ave., through June 21st.  For more information, go to their site at www.pcs.org or call 503-445-3700.

Life is something that happens when you’re not paying attention.  It exists in the small, silent moments…in between the big, noisy events…that Happiness can raise its lovely head.  It can happen when nothing more needs to be said.

That will give you a hint of the quiet simplicity of Greenberg’s play.  It involves randomness, artistic drives…dreams…the need to be free…commitment…strong ties…loose ends…rich in mind…poor in spirit…love, laughter, death and life.  And memory, which may be the strongest ingredient of these people’s senses, might be the least reliable.  For what we see and hear may not be what actually happened, you can only know the facts by actually being in the other person’s shoes.  And that, in short, may be, in part, what this play is about.

The first act takes place in the mid-90’s.  Walker (Silas Weir Mitchell) is living in squalor in a run-down building in Manhattan.  He has been running, either toward something or away from something, for years, living here, living there, but never settling for long.  A random life.  Into the scene appears his married sister, Nan (Lisa Datz), needing to see him to settle their father’s, a famous architect, who has recently died, will.  Their mother has been in an institution for the mentally ill for years and is unable to handle things, so that task is inherited by their children, and his partner’s son, Pip (Sasha Roiz), a well-known TV actor, best friends to these two, also.

It turns out that, besides leaving millions in his will, there is also a famous home, the Janeway House, almost priceless, ownership to be determined.  Pip is single and well-off, Nan is settled down and has a family, and Walker is the wild card.  But Walker also has an ace-in-the-hole, as he has discovered a journal from their father, which may explain some mysterious incidents from their past, including a passage that reads “three days of rain” with no explanation.  Can’t tell you more without revealing plot devices you should discover.

In Act II we jump backward 35 years and see life from their father’s points of view, as this seedy building was actually their office.  Pips father, Theo (Roiz) seems to be the brains of the duo, and his less well-known partner, Ned (Mitchell), seems to know taste when it comes to drawings.  They may definitely be the original, odd couple.  Both totally different people but dependant on each other to make it all work, each one half of the whole.

Lina (Datz) has been Theo’s main squeeze for some time but doesn’t look like marriage is in the offering.  Theo decides he needs to be alone for awhile to create, so he’s off to his parent’s summer cottage.  Meanwhile, Lina and Ned meet randomly and chat about each other’s dreams and about Theo, revealing insights from Ned, this normally taciturn man.  Again, can’t tell you more with being a spoiler.

Coleman has let the dialogue and story evolve in a simple, loving manner.  Wisely done.  The set (Scott Fyfe) is amazing, both expressionistic and realistic, in its depiction of the central room and its surrounding environment.  And the actors are perfect for these roles.  I have not seen the films they are in, nor the Portland-made TV series, Grimm, in which the two male actors play roles in.  So my evaluation is based solely on their rendition of these onstage characters.

Datz is terrific in playing the dual roles of a no-nonsense woman in the first Act, then portraying a ditzy, Southern lady in Act II.  The two characters are worlds apart in their make-up but she is totally convincing in bother incarnations.  Roiz is the perfect, assured gentleman in Act I, then, as his father, the troubled genius, who has a reputation to uphold but may not have the actual talent for it.  He is wonderful in giving us the subtle variations of the two men.  And Mitchell is terrific as the scatter-brained vagabond in the first act, who runs at the mouth and says exactly when he feels.  And then changes gears in the second act as his father, the silent type who is uncomfortable with the outside world but totally at ease with his inner one.  Both roles are exacting in their demeanor, completely different, and brilliantly performed.  It would be hard to find a better trio onstage!

I recommend this show.  If you do chose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.