| Entertainment :: Theatre|
Days of Wine and Roses
by Christopher Soden EDGE
ContributorThursday Jun 18, 2009It’s
hard to imagine a more perilous project than constructing a cautionary tale about
alcohol abuse that can also stand alone as an autonomous theatrical work. There
are other hazards to be sure. You don’t want anything mawkish, didactic,
preachy, overblown or contrived. J.P. Miller’s Days
of Wine and Roses is probably better known for its incarnations in film
and television, but also does well on the stage. The components are carefully
laid out, everything we see and hear advances the plot in some way. The current
production of "Days and Wine and Roses" appearing at Rover Dramawerks is powerful
and somber, modulating emotion and pathos with precision. This is volatile content,
and experienced, incisive director Lisa Devine navigates these treacherous waters
with a sure hand.
"Days of Wine and Roses" is the story of Joe Clay and
his wife Kirsten, who meet at a company cocktail party, the schmoozy kind you
endure for political reasons. Both are inebriated to relax in the midst of forced
congeniality. It’s treated casually. We don’t really think much about
the part liquor plays in their courtship and everyday lives, until unsettling
details and incidents start to reveal an unhealthy pattern. Joe is expected to
babysit a client who requires a drinking buddy, but he’s also penalized
for the effect it has on his work. When Kirsten wants to lay off the sauce because
she’s nursing their daughter, it’s Joe who convinces her to return
to the bottle. Before long they find themselves in a dilemma. They can’t
cope when they drink and they can’t cope when they don’t. They crash
and recover and take some positive steps and crash again.
noted, the success of this production lies in Devine’s expertise in handling
often impossibly sad, overwhelming material with grace, balance and bravery. That
and the dedicated work of her cast. It can’t be easy managing scenes like
the one where Joe finds Kirsten in a tawdry hotel room, dressed only in a blue
slip and swigging a bottle of gin. One false move and everyone is dragged into
the swamp we call melodrama, and nobody wants that. With impressive finesse Ms.
Devine keeps everything steady, and while we witness both healing and destruction,
we never lose respect for the heroes. Heather Hill (as Kirsten) has just the right
qualities to win and break our hearts. She is tremulous, savvy, attractive. Angry
one moment and overcome the next. Jim Croall has the earnest, imperative demeanor
that makes it easy to understand why affability has been Joe’s key to success.
one weakness in "Days of Wine and Roses" has to do with our level of attachment,
and I believe it is in the script. After a few nights have passed and you’ve
lived with the play for awhile, it seems like Joe and Kirsten exist almost solely
for the sake of the plot. They’re charismatic and appealing but I suspect
J.P. Miller made them a bit broad to help the audience identify. "Days of Wine
and Roses" is an excellent, often lyrical show that could possibly use characters
with some more dimension.
Rover Dramawerks presents J. P. Miller’s
Days of Wine and Roses, at The Cox Building Playhouse, June 4th - 27th, 2009.
Christopher Soden received his MFA in Poetry from
Vermont College in 2005. He is a teacher, lecturer, actor, performer and playwright.
In addition he writes film, theatre and literary critique. In his spare time he
likes to read, cook, dine, do crossword puzzles, chill and nap.