The Boomerang Theatre Company
DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES
By J.P. MILLER
46 Walker Street, NYC
(212) 501-4069 or www.theatremania.com
October 3 – 18, 2003
Directed by RACHEL WOOD
Sets HARLAN PENN
Lighting SCOTT DAVIS
Costumes JESSICA GAFFNEY
Sound ERNIE RICH
Fight Director CARRIE BREWER
Stage Manager CHRISTOPHER THOMASSON
Press Representation SPRINGER/CHICOINE PR
Jim Hungerford – Paul Schnee
Joe Clay – Mac Brydon
Kirsten Arnesen Clay – Laura Siner
Mr. Trayner/Ensemble – Ronald Cohen
Rad Leland/Ensemble – John Flaherty
Ellis Arnesen – Wally Carroll
Debbie Clay – Victoria Rosen
Mrs. Nolan/Ensemble – Margaret Flanagan
Nell/Ensemble – Andrea Judge
Ensemble – Philip Emeott, Montgomery Maguire
Boomerang Theatre Company has chosen to end their fifth season with a brief revival of J.P. Miller’s DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES. They have chosen to mount a very literal interpretation, and one that is housed, appropriately, in a dim, dismal set filled with characters that flutter about, and most significantly, an overwhelming sense of darkness.
For anyone unfamiliar with the play, DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES introduces us to adman Joe and co-worker Kirsten. Joe is a drinker. Kirsten socializes. They wed, and soon they have both found that, with a live-in drinking buddy, the distant specter of alcoholism has come home early, often and to roost. A sad tale, but one that could be of hope and the triumph of the human will, what one takes from it is what one makes of it.
Now, I get the philosophy behind the design and the direction in this particular DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES. The set is an oval series of plank-like structures of different heights, suggesting a rag-tag assortment of flooring and boardwalks that was slapped together as the only structure available, much as one desperate for any sort of shelter will find a home on the street inside a cardboard box. That symbolism would be hard to miss. I also get that the random folks sitting in this almost-circle represent the attendees of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and that the randomness is deliberate. I even get the direction, often calling for the actors to have their backs to the audience (who are, by the way, in a horseshoe around the oval). I get it all, yet somehow, this take on the vicious cycle of alcoholism just did not satisfy me artistically.
Part of the problem has to do with the large quantity of exposition. Some of what are potentially the most dramatic, if difficult, scenes to stage are narrated, and so never staged beyond speech. In a play, like DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES, where so much of the ultimate impact has to do with the cumulative effect of watching two everyday people fight a common, everyday disease that has taken them to extraordinary lows, the audience must see and see and see again.
The exposition is paired with another problem. Although very well-meaning, the play can come off as a PSA (public service announcement) for AA that has been imposed by the courts as sentence for a drinker caught driving under the influence. Avoiding that aspect requires some innovation, and a deliberate eye toward the opposite. Here, when paired with the aforementioned staging, avoiding that pitfall is all but impossible. Also, this DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES, while hitting some very dramatic notes, does not feature performances that suggest the characters have really hit the skids. The actors try, but I never saw them as genuinely pathetic.
This all said, this DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES still got to me, and left me feeling unsettled. With all of the negatives factored in, J.P. Miller’s script still packs one hell of a punch. I did not love the production, but it drew emotion from me, and that says a lot. This is not an easy play to sit through. It was never meant to be.
- Kessa De Santis -