Magazine article American Theatre

Life Flows through It

Magazine article American Theatre

Life Flows through It

Article excerpt

An interview with the playwright

Contemporary American playwrights usually lay off the Oedipal complex; in fact, Three Days of Rain may be the first wholesale interrogation of the subject since Arthur Miller's All My Sons. Did you set out to do this when you started?

Three Days of Rain has an odd, tortuous history. Back when I was in Yale, a few of us had a naive idea that there was such a thing as a commercial comedy. We thought, "Let's write one that will finance the plays we want to write." So, my strategy was to figure out what "commercial" buttons got pushed in me, so I could reproduce it. This led me on the most complicated, abstruse path to create the most inaccessible play I had ever written! Something entirely opaque - I didn't even understand it, totally unproducable. But it had something to do with the city, and had a similar device of an actress playing herself as an adult and then at a much-earlier age, and characters working out the myths of their parents' existence. Three Days of Rain is, 12 years later, a much-revised version.

The play's structure is so taut, I was astonished to learn that there was originally a fourth character. It's a triangle play!

I know, I know, it utterly is. But there's always that danger in finding some Ivy League sophistry for keeping something that doesn't work. I had a plot connection that nobody traderstood for this fourth character, and decided, "Oh, nobody gets it, that's all. I'll write another draft to make her make sense." It took me awhile to learn that these three people were the core of this play, which seems so obvious now.

Architecture plays an important part in Three Days of Rain, as it does in many of your plays.

Yes, because that's what I would have wanted to be - if I could do the math. I grew up in Long Island, and I used to browse model homes with my parents for recreation. I was quite taken with the blueprints that would hang in the hallway. I loved the emptiness of the houses and the structural visibility. It was alluring. In the second grade I'd draw what I thought were blueprints, but were just inept sketches with those double lines and rectangles.

In Three Days of Rain, architecture could be taken to mean theatre-where the best-laid plans of blueprints/dramas become something else in buildings/performances.

Yes, and there's an implicit connection there to marriage, too - the institutions that come out of a moment of inspiration between people, but have to be flexible enough to withstand time and be serviceable. That line about architecture as "frozen music" - something still, but life flows through it.

Attendant to that is the idea of mistrusting any text as the origin of meaning - a post-structuralist concept, which bounces back onto Three Days of Rain. …

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