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Entertainment :: Theatre

Days of Wine and Roses
by Christopher Soden
EDGE Contributor
Thursday Jun 18, 2009


   (Source:Rover Dramawerks)
It’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.

As previously 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.

The 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. www.roverdramawerks.com


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.




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