by Margaret Croyden
Margaret Croyden is a theater reviewer and essayist for the New York Theatre Wire.
Three Days of Rain by Richard Greenberg
starring Julia Roberts
The Bernard Jacobs Theatre
West 45 Street
212-239-6200 or www.telecharge.com
opened April 19, 2006
Reviewed April 28, 2006 by Margaret Croyden
It is very brave of Julia Roberts to try her hand on Broadway to prove that she is more than just a lovely movie actress. But it is a shame that she chose such a poor play to make her debut. What was she thinking? Who advised her to take this nonstop, boring talk fest with a convoluted insignifcant plot that makes no sense. The plot, if you want to call it that, is about a lazy, indolent young man (Paul Rudd) his sister (Julia Roberts), and their friend (Bradly Cooper) who meet to divide up their legacies. And in the process reminisce for over two hours about their parent's lives. In a word, the entire play is exposition. Oh, I forgot the second act, the three actors enact their parents giving them a chance to show off their ability to play double roles, But the result is negligible.
What are we to make of Julia Roberts who wanders through the play like a lonely stranger, ill at ease and barely audible.
Actually I felt sorry for her. She is dressed in drab grey and brown; her hair, dull and lifeless, hangs all over her face forcing her to continually shove it away, and since she is taller than the two men in the cast, she towers over them. Not a flattering picture. The trouble with a super star appearing live on stage is that her every move is watched, all eyes are on her, and admittedly, she is over scrutinized. But when Hollywood stars come to Broadway they surely must know what conditions they face. Superstars have never fared well. (Look at Denzil Washington and Jessica Lange). On screen, the camera catches every nuance; the microphone enlarges the voice, the lights accentuates eyes and cheekbones, the camera gives life to all kinds of emotions. But on stage, actors are on their own. No cameras, no microphone, and no makeup artists to help you very minute. And even experienced directors cannot save an actor who is untrained for the theater. Certainly Joe Mantello, who has a good reputation, was of no help; he shares in the disaster. He moved Julia Roberts around like an automatatom, had her knitting at one moment--a ridiculous activity--or clutching her handkerchief, or standing awkwardly around a couch.
The two male actors Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper stole the scenes. In his long speech in the first act, Bradley Cooper won a hand, which he deserved, since he delivered a long monologue with voice and body in perfect sync. Paul Rudd was competent but his role, a neurotic bad boy, was a cliche which he could not overcome. Richard Greenberg, an overpraised and pretentious writer has written an untheatrical play--with no action, and plenty of talk. But don't ask what the talk signifies.
And so Julia Roberts was at a great disadvantage. An attractive actress, full of vibrancy and life on the screen, and often a joy to watch, is flat and colorless on stage. But there is a lesson here. Hollywood stars: beware; there is no cutting room, no retakes. You are on your own. One wonders why Julia Roberts chose to display herself on stage in the first place. Adventure? Hubris? Boredom? Who knows? I would like to tell her to come back, but first chose a better script, get some voice lessons, learn how to use your body for the stage, select a better director, and take care how they dress you. Better still, stick to the screen.
Margaret Croyden's most recent book "Conversations With Peter Brook, 1970-2000" is published by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.
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