-a sour soup. a distinct Filipino comfort food for the soul. as unique as its people. as diverse as its culture. a blend of ingredients prepared to its sour perfection, exciting the palate, soothing the nerves, rousing the senses, bringing back memories of scenic greens, warm sun, blue waters, and the solace of home.
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Friday, October 05, 2007

In Julia Roberts' Defense: A Fan's Dissection of "Three Days of Rain"

PricelessBY SOME UTTER LUCK, I found myself in Bernard B. Jacobs Theater at 242 West 45th Street in New York June 17, 2006 for the matinée show of "Three Days of Rain." There are over 40 competing Broadway and off-Broadway performances twice a day in NYC's Theater District. It's hard to pick the best show to watch. Obviously, musicals are more lively and entertaining because of its music, props, costume changes, lights and dances. Plays on the other hand are restricted in one setting with monologues and dialogue. You have to be all ears to understand what is going on in a play. With that, I wouldn't have chosen to watch a play over a musical. With the exception that it is THE Julia Roberts playing the female lead in the play "Three Days of Rain."


I observed every nook and cranny of the packed imposing theatre. The audience were a mix of young and old, affluent and impoverished like me and the in-betweens! I stood there with eager anticipation, with knots in my stomach, anxious as though I was a relative or a family of one of the performers, praying that he/she may not forget lines or trip on stage. Close. I am a Julia Roberts fan since I was 15, watching her earlier forgettable films Mystic Pizza, Steel Magnolias and Flatliners. But then came Pretty Woman and Dying Young. I was hooked. Then came Stepmom, My Best Friend's Wedding, Runaway Bride, Notting Hill and Erin Brockovich, at this point I thought she is the ultimate movie star! She is a goddess, perfect in every way, and ought to be named the greatest movie actress of all time!! Ok, perhaps I'm being OA (overacting)!


I have every reason to be nervous seeing her that afternoon. The snobby critics of Theater weren't very kind to Ms. Julia Roberts' earlier performances. They tried to destroy her and I can only hope she will try theatre again someday soon and won't give up Broadway all together. The perplexity of it all was that, even with the negative comments people were drawn to the show with sold out tickets for the entire 12-week engagement and even the critic of all critic couldn't help but admire the unique beauty in front of them. They were star-struck like everybody else.


This is her first time. She learns that in this form of acting, it isn't about star power but is all about stage presence and connecting with a live audience. One doesn't need a theater background to tell a good and no-so good role playing. Judging from what I actually saw, she has quite a ways to go in stage acting. In this humbling performance, I am awed almost pained to see my Julia Roberts not knowing what to do with her body, so oftentimes she just stands on stage stiffly. She struggles over her lines with an unsure, uptight posture, twitchy hands, tensed voice that some lines are almost inaudible to hear as she croaks to deliver her lines from memory without intensity and gusto. The only real intensity came not from the ongoing drama on stage but from the bond she has long established with her fans. In that sense, she connected. It wasn't out of empathy or shame for her from the audience but like family, her fans not only adored her but respected her even more for trying what could be the greatest challenge of her career- performing before a live audience, without room for error- no soft lights to accentuate her face, no take 2 or 3 if she forgets a line, no fancy props or dress change. It was just her natural, beautiful in an uncanny way face and the audience.


I'd like to say that Ms. Robert's performance isn't entirely her fault. I'm blaming director Joe Montello who proved that Ms. Roberts is just way too big of a star for him to handle; that he doesn't know how to utilize her talent for her to shine. Also that she is just way too big of an actress for this low-key, shady play of Richard Greenberg. It is a deep, emotional, funny story- almost
engaging! I would have enjoyed this reading not watching it in a play. I can't imagine how they could turn this into an exciting, gripping movie as rights for a movie has already been sold by Greenberg. Even Julia Roberts couldn't save this play and that's probably how far it would go in terms of Broadway showing.


The two other movie stars having had Broadway experiences in the past came out as the better performers, showing a little bit of confidence onstage and really connected with the audience in a theatrical experience way- not the kind of star-fan connection between Ms. Roberts and me. Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper shined in a way Julia didn't in Act I. The very dramatic and realistic rainstorm (where it rained for three days) outshone all three in Act II.


I still have lingering questions for Julia though. Why oh why, did you choose this not-so particularly absorbing play as your Broadway baptism of fire?! What were you thinking? Didn't you think you'd be better off as a heroine in a light romantic-comedy play than as a nervous-wreck character with complexities in life? As a heroine you'd be memorable and charming and comfortable instead you were this insignificant character in this tangled web of three players. You can get away with that in the movies but being a character in a play asks for much more than you could have given at that time... But I am with you. I will be here for your next movie. I will be here for your next Broadway show. Suffice it to say that I am a Julia Roberts fan and will always be a Julia Roberts fan regardless of how she fared in "Three Days of Rain." ©


Three Days of Rain
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
242 West 45th Street
New York City, New York
Broadway Premiere: 19 April 2006
Closed: 18 June 2006

- 22 june 2006

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