- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: Grove Press; 1st edition (September 13, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0802136362
- ISBN-13: 978-0802136367
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #612,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Three Days of Rain and Other Plays: Three Days of Rain; The American Plan; The Author's Voice; Hurrah at Last Paperback – September 13, 1999
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The volume starts with one of Greenberg's most well known plays, "Three Days of Rain". Sad to say, the piece just doesn't cut it. The characters and situations leave one aching for something worthwhile to read. There just isn't a lot at stake in the world of the play. A lot of the blame can be placed on the way the characters are written. The character whose presence looms largest over the play, Walker, is easily the biggest problem. Walker just isn't a likeable character at all. While a character certainly doesn't have to be likeable in order to be good, Walker is not unlikable in the "has no conscience/morals/feelings" sense of unlikable, but rather he's unlikable in the "annoying/selfish/always whining little brother" sense. While he creates havoc throughout the first act of the play, he simply grates on the reader. While the characters of Nan and Pip are less irksome than Walker, they also (to a lesser degree) have the same problem; namely, they are all extraordinarily privileged and yet spend 90% of their time whining about something or other. Nothing is ever truly at stake. None of these people ever have a chance of losing anything. Why should the average reader care about the woes of rich, well-educated, upper-crust New Yorkers? Average readers will find little to empathize with in this play.
While the second act of "Three Days of Rain" thankfully changes gears and illuminates some of the first act, it's a case of far too little, too late.
Next is what is easily the best play in the volume, "The American Plan", written in 1990. "The American Plan" is a simple, yet graceful and sad piece containing five characters who, unlike the characters of 3DOR, are interesting and conceivably realistic. The play starts off slowly and seems to be a little bit cliché, but it quickly grows on the reader as hidden complexities emerge. The play has moments of beauty and heartbreak and is also funny, well-written, and, most importantly, human.
The one-act piece "The Author's Voice" is essentially a one-joke premise that cannot be sustained in an interesting fashion for even a single act. While the core idea at the heart of the piece is sound, the initial jokey presentation sets up a tone that keeps the play from being taken seriously.
Rounding out the quartet of plays here is "Hurrah At Last", written in 1998. This play was written closely after 'Three Days of Rain' and it shows, as ideas and themes from that play reemerge in this one. Unfortunately, another thing taken from 3DOR is the presence of a totally loathsome main character. In this play, Greenberg's overly literary style totally overcomes the characters of his play and sends it collapsing like a house of cards. His characters absolutely refuse to sound like real people and their situations remain boring and unsympathetic.
It's sad that a playwright like Greenberg is constantly lauded and praised as being one of theater's top writers and yet his work is largely derivative of itself and never seems to be swinging for the fences.
I was disappointed in Three Days of Rain.
There's a play, I can't remember which one, in which one character says "The second act needs work." The reply, "All second acts need work," I have generally found to be true. However, in Three Days of Rain I found it was the opposite. The first act involves 3 adults - brother, sister, and a family friend - talking about their parents. This lays the groundwork for the second act, in which the same 3 actors play the parents in the same location years before their kids were born.
The first act is frustrating in that the main character is so melodramatic and selfish there's no connection or reason to care about him. It also reads as though it would VERY easy for the actor to take it over the top and make it even worse.
The frustration of the first act may be intentional. The kids completely misunderstand the parents, which is shown brilliantly in the second act. Here, the main character is so sympathetic it feels you're being asked to feel sorry for him at times. Other than that, it's beautifully written and touching.
In fact, I love the second act. I just wish Greenberg hadn't felt the need to make the first act so contrasting that you almost can't believe that they could be the children of these parents. I believe he was striving to make a point by exaggerating that contrast, but it's just too much for me. I can picture people leaving at intermission because the first act characters got on their nerves so much they didn't want to stick around for more.
As for the other plays...
I felt The American Plan was Tennessee Williams meets the Catskills. Since I'm not a big Tennessee Williams fan, this is not a compliment coming from me.
The Author's Voice was witty and original, I just wish it was longer.
Hurrah at Last was my favorite in this book.
I agree with one of the previous reviewers that it has a lot in common with Three Days of Rain, including dealing with similar issues and fairly annoying characters. However, where Three Days played it for drama, Hurrah goes for the laugh lines. This keeps the pace moving quickly and allows for the annoying characters to be more believable. Even the dramatic tension is generally written comedically.
In short, Hurrah at Last seems like it would be the most fun to produce or see live. I do think the director would need to be careful to make sure the dramatic undercurrent doesn't get buried by the laughs, but in the right hands this could be a great show.