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Three Days of Rain

Anthony Shim, Kendra Anderson, James Pizzinato. Photo by Ronan ReinartThree Days of Rain by Richard Greenberg
Directed by Victor Ayala,
Ninja Pirates Theatre Company
Studio 16
June 28 to July 3, 2011

Vancouver, BC: I was about to join friends for a farewell dinner at Salade de Fruits Cafe at the French Cultural Centre on West 7th.  The Centre is also home to the Studio 16 black box theatre. As I entered, the poster for the play that was opening that night in Studio 16, caught my eye. It was Three Days of Rain by Richard Greenberg, the first play in a book with a 4 play collection by Greenberg, that was sitting on a bookshelf in my apartment. I remembered that on reading the play some time ago, I had thought  what a fantastic acting challenge it would present and I was curious to learn who was tackling it.

In chatting to the folks manning the box-office, I learned that they were members of the Ninja Pirates Theatre Company, a new company I had not heard of before. Three Days of Rain is an extraordinarily complex play for a company of young actors to perform.  It is a three-hander set in two time periods. In the first act  each actor plays a character in a downtown Manhattan loft apartment in 1995. In the second act the actor plays s/his parent living in the same apartment, but in 1960, thirty-five years earlier. Each actor must therefore evoke two distinct personality types living in a different era, and it is so easy to fall into the trap of "acting" rather than "being". In this production by the Ninja Pirates, Anthony Shim plays Walker and his father Ned, James Pizzinato plays Pip and his father Theo, while Kendra Anderson plays Nan, and her mother, Lina. The actors are playing characters who are probably in their mid-thirties;  a good ten years older than the actors.

I returned to the Centre last night to see how this company would stage this play. I did not know what to expect.  I mean the company name Ninja Pirates hardly engenders an image of maturity or sophistication. The gorgeous Julia Roberts was panned in the 2006 Broadway production, and she was playing a character more or less her own age.

But I was very pleasantly surprised. Director Victor Ayala, in his directing debut, found a solid pacing for his actors and in general they turned in creditable performances.

The play starts with the neurotic, narcissistic  Walker and his sister, Nan, meeting in an empty studio in Manhattan. Three decades earlier, Ned Janeway and Theo had lived and worked in the studio  designing the Janeway House which made them famous. This encounter is the first time Nan has seen Walker since he disappeared more than a year before, just before the funeral of their father. Walker and Nan are about to meet Pip at their lawyer's office where Ned's will is to be read. Walker expects the house that Ned owned to be left to him and Nan.

In Act two we meet the self-effacing, stuttering Ned, the blocked "creative genius" Theo, and Lina, the Southern belle who becomes the crazy mother of Walker and Nan, at the time that the Janeway House is being conceived.

The script is more character based than plot driven and for the dramatic end to work completely the characters must be nailed. I didn't fully get the sense of the underlying mental instability in either Walker or Lina, but Shim was much more convincing as Ned than as the aptly named Walker. Pizzinato has an even more difficult task of differentiating the Pip role from the Theo character. Both came across as handsome, charismatic and somewhat self-absorbed.

The argument between Theo and Lina at the opening of act 2 has some really witty lines but though, or perhaps because, the actors put so much volume and passion into the scene, the humour passed by the audience and garnered not even a chuckle.

I really enjoyed the sound design (Dan Blackburn) and the costumes (Danielle Yanay). Some of the music had me wanting to jive on the set and of course, the rain just rained and rained. Lina looked positively stunning in her green dress - very 60s.

 Overall I applaud Ayala and company for tackling a difficult piece and doing it well.  This is a short run - only two more shows, Saturday and Sunday at 8 pm . So reserve online at media@ninjapiratestheatre.com or get your tickets at the door.