The Days of Wine and Roses

By - Mar 20th, 2007 02:52 pm
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By Russ Bickerstaff

As anyone who has been anywhere near it could attest, there is little if anything romantic about alcoholism. And as quaint and idealized as the picture of Irish drinking culture has become in this country, there is little that separates an Irish alcoholic from a Russian alcoholic from an American alcoholic from an alcoholic anywhere in the world. Exploring the tragic nature of the addiction, the Boulevard Ensemble Theatre trots out Owen McCafferty’s compelling dramatic duet The Days Of Wine And Roses.

On an exceptionally bare set, Amy Kull and Tom Dillon star as Mona and Donal, an Irish couple meeting for the first time at an airport in Belfast in the early ‘60s. They meet as each are headed to London. He’s going there to further his career as a bookie; she’s going there because she’s fascinated by what she’s heard abut London. The two find themselves leaving familiar elements and have that first drink of whiskey together.

Things are never so happy as they are in this opening scene, which manages to capture much of the initial euphoria of two people meeting and falling in love. The Irish accents are solid enough to sound reasonably authentic for Milwaukee ears. They aren’t alarmingly real, but thankfully, both Kull and Dillon know when to tone down the accents and simply let the characters breathe. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this opening scene. The two agree to spend their lives together in the second scene, but we begin to see the seeds of emotional and physical dependency take hold.

Things begin to get a bit darker with the third scene, set a full two years after Scene One. We begin to see all the classic charm of an abusive alcoholic romance. It’s not real pleasant to sit through, but Kull and Dillon provide performances with enough depth to keep things from ever getting too entirely dark.

Everything does, however, continue to get less and less comfortable as the play crawls toward the ninth and final scene. It’s a very slow crawl to the end in the intimate confines of the Boulevard Theatre. Based on J. P. Miller’s mid-century original drama, a story like this was much more powerful when it first debuted. Alcoholics Anonymous had only been around for a couple of decades back then and the real drama of addiction had only just started to surface on the stage and screen. Now that it’s been thoroughly explored and dissected in dramatic presentations of every shade, The Days Of Wine and Roses doesn’t come across as shocking – just kind of pathetic.

As uncomfortable as it is to spend an evening with a couple of abusive, drunken people, it’s even less comfortable sitting through a couple of hours watching a couple of bad actors attempting to portray a couple of abusive, drunken people. Thankfully, we are spared that here. Kull puts in her usual stellar performance and Dillon matches that with what might be his best performance at the Boulevard. It’s a solid, well-acted production of the play, but hanging out with a couple of drunks at a theater in Bay View may not be an entirely enjoyable evening for everyone. VS

Boulevard Theatre’s production of The Days of Wine and Roses runs now through March 25th at The Boulevard Theatre. For tickets or further info. Call Boulevard at 414-744-5757 or visit the Boulevard online at www.boulevardtheatre.com.

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