It’s 6:55. My friend Nikki and I are sitting in a cab between 6th and 7th Avenue and traffic isn’t moving. Julia Roberts’ Broadway debut starts at 6:45. Eh, the A-list celebrities that’ll be there will be fashionably late — they won’t start the show without people in their seats. But wait… we wanna see all the famous people on the red carpet. We tell the cab driver to go die. We jump out and start walking towards the theater because traffic is not moving. Nikki’s wearing impossible heels so she’s lagging behind me as I sprint towards the theater, which I can recognize before I even see the marquee. There are hundreds of people gathered next to it across the street. There are multi-shot cameras flashing left and right. I’m a little confused because there’s such a big crowd — I don’t quite know how to get into the theater. “People without tickets move over to the side! If you have a ticket, step down!” Yes! We briefly show the security guard our tickets (which I almost dropped) and he lets us go after a quick, “You’d better not lose that — that’s a valuable ticket!”
Crap. We got here too late to see celebs arrive on the red carpet. But ooh! There’s Marcia Gay Harden waving to the cameras. We walk inside the theater and they immediately snatch my camera. “Here’s your number. Go down to the coat checkroom after the show and they’ll give it back to you. Do you have a camera, Miss?” Nikki lies. The aisles and staircases are so crowded we don’t even understand how we’ll get to our seats. All the people who are seated in the mezzanine (the balcony) are lined up on the staircase staring at the orchestra (main floor) to scout out celebrities. Unfortunately, no one famous was visible, so we decide to take our seats. We walk upstairs, show the guy our tickets, and finally find our seats. “Uh..no! This is J! You’re in G!” Whoa, sorr-ee. We move to the right seats (which by the way, were closer to the stage and more center, dumbass).
Suddenly there’s a hub-bub in the mezzanine — everyone starts standing up to look down at the main floor. We see no one. Then a heavy-set Indian woman comes up to our row so that she can get in her seat. “Sorry”, she says. “Oh, it’s okay,” Nikki replies, “we’re just trying to see famous people.”
“I JUST SAW OPRAH!”
“Yeah, on the way up the stairs, I walked by her.”
“Where is she sitting?”
“Over on the right a few rows back from the front.”
We begin the stalking. I go down to the front of the railing to see her, and get a glimpse of Ms. Winfrey herself next to her entourage of bodyguards and begin silently screaming and freaking out. Two German lesbians ask me who I saw but I can hardly understand them so I pretend I can’t hear.
And then the show begins.
Many of my friends and colleagues have seen the play during its previews — some say it was horrible, some say the first act sucked but the second was good. I wanted to make the judgment for myself.
The set for Joe Mantello’s Three Days of Rain is stunning. The grandiosity and realness of the house that Walker (Paul Rudd) lays asleep in is striking. He awakes to the sounds of the city, and soon his sister Nan (Julia Roberts) enters. Ms. Roberts’ first few lines are drowned out by the sea of applause from the eager crowd. Julia is ostensibly nervous when she first enters the stage — she’s very fidgety, looking somewhat meek, and even nearly flubs one of her first lines. But after about 20 minutes, she calms down and gets on the right track.
This Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Richard Greenberg is the story of two siblings who must deal with the death of their father. They reunite before the reading of their father’s will. The will sat unread for a year while the younger child, Walker (Paul Rudd), left the country without telling anyone. This disappearing act would appear to be par for the course for the scattered Walker, whose life stands in stark contrast to that of his capable and stern sister, Nan (Ms. Roberts), and who takes after their institutionalized mother.
We’re provided with a funny moment at the beginning of the play when Walker reads a disturbing passage from his father’s journal, turns emotional, and throws it across the stage. It went too far, and fell into the house. A few lines later it was obvious from what Walker was saying that he needed the journal, so an older man in the first row picked the journal up off the floor and handed it to Rudd as boisterous laughter and applause followed. Julia showcased that trademark grin.
The story changes a bit when Pip (Bradley Cooper) enters the picture — a childhood friend who, unbeknownst to Walker (who obviously has some unresolved issues about his father’s love and approval), was given the house that Ned, an architect, designed and owned. Walker also learns that Pip had a very good relationship with Ned, and indeed one with Nan as well (they slept together).
Rudd and Roberts, though they bog the play down in the very beginning, are saved when the brilliant and charismatic Cooper enters and completely steals the first act. His energy and humor revives the downtrodden beginning of the play and the audience fell absolutely in love with him.
Toward the end of the act, Roberts gains momentum and we catch wind of her signature sarcasm and biting humor. There are times when she looks physically uncomfortable on stage — not knowing what to do with her hands or how to stand — but the good news for Julia is that it works for her awkward character Nan. Often in the play, there’s a feeling of disjointedness or lack of undulation, but that is definitely not a testament to Greenberg’s stellar play. It’s a testament to the talent (or lack thereof) of the play’s mediocre director Joe Mantello. What do you expect when you hand the director of Wicked and The Odd Couple a Pulitzer Prize winning play?
The first act ends, and now it’s intermission. Time to go stalk Oprah. I still can’t quite see where Oprah is sitting, so Nikki and I keep searching where that lady told us to. Then as we’re about to give up and just walk down to the main floor, I hear “There she is, right there.” “Where? I don’t see her.”
I asked, “Who? Who do you see?”
A nice man replies “Oprah.”
Yes! He points her out to me. “Right there behind that woman in the green that just opened her cell phone.”
I go over to the corner of the balcony to get a better view. Nikki said, “I don’t see her.”
“Right there!” I say as I point to her.
Oprah looks right at me. She looks afraid and turns the other way.
We finally go down to the main floor, but on the way down the stairs, Nikki steals like ten Playbills of the floor. “Ebay!” she yells, as she tells me to shove them in my bag. There’s already a hoard of people down there just standing around so they can see famous people. We find a nice niche in a corner to stand in by the door so we can scout out celebs without looking pathetic. “Nikki! Look! Rosie Perez!”
I look behind me, and I see Jennifer Esposito (Crash) standing at her seat and talking. A lady pokes me. “Were you in ‘Rent’?”
“Damn it, you should’ve said ‘yes,’” Nikki says as she kicks me and then walks away in search of the bathroom.
Anyone and everyone starts walking in from outside: James Gandolfini, Sam Rockwell, Elaine Stritch, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, James Lipton — I just saw Steven Spielberg behind Oprah!
The security guards start getting angry, and tell everyone to get back to their seats so the curtain can come up. No one listens. They come back ten minutes later and say the same thing. Reluctantly, everyone moseys up to their seats.
The second act starts, and boy is it great. In this act, the actors play the previous generation. Julia plays their mother Lina, Paul plays their father Ned, and Bradley plays Ned’s friend and partner Theo (who, it is revealed, actually designed the house). Julia now has a slight southern drawl (which goes in and out at times) and Paul now has a stutter and is slightly awkward (in a good way). Bradley, though boisterous and show stopping in the first act, doesn’t make much of a character change from Pip to Theo, and is actually upstaged by his co-stars in the second half of the play. Here, Julia and Paul absolutely shine.
What’s odd is that Roberts is known for playing characters pretty close to her own personality (and she’s great at it, by the way), and in this play, Nan is probably closer to that character. Where Julia really comes alive is in this act where she plays the drunken and unstable Lina who we still find endearing. Julia has a knack for making unflattering characters lovable (see My Best Friend’s Wedding).
It’s difficult to express how visually stunning this play is when it begins to rain onstage. Bradley Cooper is shown walking downstage where it’s raining, and right behind him, Julia and Paul are lying in bed inside the house. It was awe-inducing — almost magical.
The play seems to end abruptly, but the show was worth it. All three actors gave great performances that were particular and honest, and that’s all your job is as an actor, whether it’s movies or film.
We know the stage door is going to be crowded, so as soon as we know it’s the end, Nikki and I rush outside. We were the very first ones to leave the theater and when we walked out, there were hundreds of onlookers and paparazzi waiting for celebrities to exit so they could catch a glimpse or snap their picture. You can imagine their dismay when the two of us were what came out. It was awkward. We find the stage door, wait for a while, and see all the great celebs exit. Julia finally comes out, she signs my Erin Brockovich DVD, I snap her picture, I see Paul and Bradley (I couldn’t have them sign Erin Brockovich — that would’ve been weird), and the night was fun.
We then go to the theater next door to await David Schwimmer’s exit from the stage door (his show’s playing there), but mostly it was because I heard someone say “Jennifer Aniston!” Judy Greer (you know, Jennifer Garner’s best friend in 13 Going on 30) comes out and nastily pushes past Nikki. “Excuse me!” What a bitch. No one knows who you are anyway.
I took a few pictures of the departures.
Overall, I would recommend seeing Three Days of Rain to anyone who has the money (it was quite expensive — even in the mezzanine), especially if you’re a fan of any of the three stars.