The evidence is in. In its Los Angeles premiere, it's easy to see why Richard Greenberg's wry comic drama received accolades in its 1997 premiere at Costa Mesa's South Coast Repertory and subsequent productions in such cities as London, Chicago, and New York. Courtesy of the Evidence Room staging, this critic experienced the pleasures of this intriguing work for the first time, and per my yardstick, it's the most accomplished writing yet among Greenberg's growing list of credits (Eastern Standard, Hurrah at Last, Night and Her Stars). The Evidence Room has mounted this bracingly intelligent work with TLC, as director Pamela Gordon leads a first-rate ensemble in mining the play's wealth of dramatic possibilities.
Greenberg employs an inventive structure to explore a simple but profound theme—the emotional and spiritual legacy parents bestow upon their children. As the play begins, siblings Nan (Alicia Hoge) and Walker (Leo Marks) meet to review the will of their recently deceased father Ned, along with Pip (Jason Adams), the son of Ned's long-deceased architect-business partner Theo. The discovery of a cryptic diary and some surprises in the will set into motion a reassessment by the trio of their parents' interrelationships and a musing on their own individual and collective psychological underpinnings.
In the second act, set some 35 years earlier, the actors play their own parents, with Marks as Ned, Hoge as his wife Lina, and Adams as Theo. We discern several telling links between the generations, such as a parallel between the high-strung affectations of Southern belle Lina and the neurotic personality of her nomadic son Walker. Conversely we see how the introverted nature of the stammering Ned relates to Walker's tendency toward over-solicitous chatter. Marks achieves a seamless, chameleon-like segue from son to father, with the characterizations equally compelling. Hoge is likewise versatile in exploring the relatively more-together qualities of the married-with-children Nan vs. the restless sexual/emotional energy of her mother. Adams has less opportunity to show differences between his characters, but his two portrayals are infused with wit and energy. As Pip, he amusingly conveys the character's self-deprecating reflections on his status as a grade-B actor.
Gordon keeps the pace crisp while taking the time to establish the subtle moments of nuance that make the work so intellectually rich. She also achieves an effective production design, by virtue of Ames Ingham's credible and well-detailed Manhattan apartment set, Candice Cain's spot-on costumes, and John Zalewski's ambient sound design. One might quibble with scattered contrivances in the script; some observers who like everything tied up with a neat bow have suggested it's a play without a genuine conclusion. But in my book it's a contemporary classic, providing an auspicious kickoff for the Evidence Room's new weeknight play series.
"Three Days of Rain," presented by and at the Evidence Room, 2220 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. Mon.-Wed. 7:30 p.m. Mar. 28-Apr. 25. $12. (213) 381-7118.