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Another Great ‘Big Idea’

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Beth Edwards, Eric Baldin and Ryan Snyder co-star in "Three Days of Rain" at Big Idea Theatre. Photo by Yuri Tajiri.

Two men and one woman: It’s a potential recipe for disaster. And in “Three Days of Rain,” now at Big Idea Theatre, there’s a double batch of trouble.

The story involves two generations of friends – contemporary siblings Walker (Eric Baldwin) and Nan (Beth Edwards) and friend Pip (Ryan Snyder) and their parents, architectural partners Ned (Baldwin) and Theo (Snyder) and the woman in the middle, Lina (Edwards).

Act One presents siblings nomadic and unreliable Walker and sister Nan, who is constantly disappointed by her brother as they prepare to attend the reading of the will of their father Ned. Most prized among his estate is a famous house he was commissioned to design that once appeared in Life magazine. Walker insists he wants the house – a real, permanent home – and offers to purchase his sister’s half. Enter Pip, a TV-show hunk, son of Ned’s late partner, Theo, and longtime friend of the two, who is going to attend the reading with them.

Imagine everyone’s surprise and dismay when Ned bequeaths the home to Pip. The decision seems to make no sense – and even a journal Ned kept during his and Theo’s partnership is cryptic at best in its revelations. How did this happen?

Act Two, set 35 years in the past, provides some – but not all – answers. We see the struggling architects, Theo the “genius” and Ned the practical designer, as they labor over the work. Eventually, plans for a house emerge – Ned gets all the credit, though it’s not entirely his fault. And their partnership already has been ruined when the girl Theo chooses Ned instead. There’s a mysterious line Walker finds in his father’s journal about taking “everything” from Ned. Was it the house, the girl, or something more (the will to live, perhaps)? The answer remains a mystery, which is part of what makes this story of generational secrets, understandings and misunderstands so real.

Shaleen Schutzer-Smith directs a superbly talented cast in a compelling theatrical drama. Benjamin T. Ismail and Ciara McClary’s lighting design effectively isolate and illuminate Cameron Rose’s functional set design.

The three stars acquit themselves exceedingly well, although Edwards’ Lina in the second act, is less effective once we realize she is Walker and Nan’s mother, who is so off-her-rocker she’s referred to as “Daisy Fitzgerald’s less-stable sister.” The writing doesn’t support—or suggest – that. Snyder is relaxed and natural as the hunky Pip and properly agitated as Theo. He emotes well, but some of his best work is physical, jittery and reactionary. Baldwin has the best role and performs it to the hilt. His Walker is good, but his portrayal of Ned is outstanding. He adopts a second persona for Ned, stooping, shrinking and stuttering in a most believable way. Nothing is amiss in his performance.
The only caveat with this production is this: It’s very wordy and oftentimes hurried, so listen closely. You’ll be amply rewarded.

“Three Days of Rain” continues at 8pm Thursday through Saturday until Sept. 12 at Big Idea Theatre, 1616 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento. Tickets are $16 online/$20 at the door on weekends and $10 on Thursdays. For more information: (916) 960-3036 or bigideatheatre.org.

Photo by Yuri Tajiri

About the author

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes has masters degrees in English and journalism and is a former National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in popular culture at Stanford University. He has covered Sacramento arts and entertainment for more than 20 years. He currently writes about and reviews theater, dance, music and events in the Sacramento area.

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