Days of Wine and Roses | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Days of Wine and Roses


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Days of Wine and Roses, Keyhole Players, at the Athenaeum Theatre. "Drinking was the whole basis of your relationship," an AA counselor tells Joe Clay, whose insecure, nonsober wife perceives his newfound sobriety as a rejection of their life together. The problem is that drinking must also be the basis of our relationship with them, accepted as a given without being explained.

In 1958 playwright J.P. Miller set out to warn audiences of the hazards faced by alcoholics in love. But when Keyhole Players director Frank Merle pared down this teleplay-turned-screenplay-turned-stage play, he excised all but the briefest indications of what first made these hapless lovers drink and why they continue to do so. Increasing our distance from the characters are labored portrayals of Joe and Kirsten by Matt Welton and Rebecca Spence, whose physical and vocal mannerisms, whether sober or stumbling and ranting, are indistinguishable from each other. And the jazz music that signals the onset of the fatal thirst, while competently rendered, only emphasizes the play's age.

Self-generated, self-perpetuating addictions are common in real life, but if we're to care about characters in a play, we must understand their motives. "To drink or not to drink?" is not in itself a dramatic question.

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