If not for the unbridled consuming, it would simply have been a screwball comedy. Just have a look at them: Kirsten, blondly stunning with a tolerant smile and a fast riposte; Joe, curly-haired cute however too boastful to know that he’ll need to up his recreation to win this girl.
Within moments of their assembly in 1950 in New York City, he bursts suavely into tune — some presumptuous romantic blather concerning the two of them collectively below “a chapel of stars.” Whereupon she teases him proper again right down to earth.
“Wow,” she says. “Who are you wooing? It can’t be me; you don’t know me.”
This is the addiction-canon basic “Days of Wine and Roses,” although, so a few of us already know them. In JP Miller’s luridly frank 1958 teleplay, starring Piper Laurie and Cliff Robertson, and in Miller’s considerably defanged 1962 movie adaptation, starring Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon, Kirsten and Joe are the enticing pair who make a harrowing, hand-in-hand descent into self-destruction by means of alcohol.
In Craig Lucas and Adam Guettel’s jazzy, aching musical primarily based on the teleplay and the movie, Kelli O’Hara and Brian d’Arcy James are an awfully glamorous Kirsten and Joe — O’Hara, in beautiful voice, singing 14 of the present’s 18 numbers, seven of them solos. Directed in its world premiere by Michael Greif for Atlantic Theater Company, this “Days of Wine and Roses” fills the outdated Gothic Revival parish home that’s the Linda Gross Theater with wonderful sound.
“Two people stranded at sea,” Kirsten and Joe sing sparely, hauntingly, within the transient and excellent prologue. “Two people stranded are we.”
So they’re. But after they first meet, at a celebration on a yacht within the East River, Kirsten is a nondrinker primly tired of alcohol, whereas Joe is decided that she indulge, as a result of then she could be his consuming buddy. That she acquiesces after which falls to this point makes him her corruptor, or so her taciturn father (a splendidly gruff Byron Jennings) will at all times consider.
“Get rid of him, Kirs,” he tells her when it’s already too late. And anyway it’s the oceans of booze of their relationship that basically have to go.
Lucas and Guettel, who mined the identical midcentury interval to nice success of their 2005 Broadway musical, “The Light in the Piazza,” wherein O’Hara additionally starred, have every spoken publicly of previous private struggles with substance abuse. Excising the heavy-handedness of earlier variations of “Days of Wine and Roses,” and softening the main points of Joe’s degradation, they go deeper into the heart-rending familial fallout of dependancy.
Lucas (e book) and Guettel (music and lyrics) often presume the viewers’s familiarity with the plot, or steer to this point away from melodrama that they veer into emotional aridity. But additionally they seize unmistakably the bliss that Kirsten and Joe really feel inside their bubble of a threesome: simply the 2 of them and alcohol, throwing a personal occasion that goes on and on.
Not for these reveling lovers the swelling strings of Henry Mancini, who scored the movie; within the cocktail-mixing tune “Evanesce,” Guettel offers them vibrant, quick music, frenetic and danceable — and after they do a little bit of soft-shoe in salt spilled on the ground, there’s a playful heedlessness to their sandpaper percussion. (Choreography is by Sergio Trujillo and Karla Puno Garcia.) This is the excessive that makes sobriety so unthinkable for Kirsten and Joe, at the same time as their lives disintegrate.
Which they do, alarmingly, regardless of their love for one another and for his or her hyper-capable daughter, Lila (Ella Dane Morgan), who learns very younger to take care of herself, and to mislead cowl for her mother and father. It’s Joe who finds the power, finally, to decide on their little one over alcohol, and Kirsten who feels deserted by her husband, as she clings to what was their personal world.
Affecting as O’Hara is, Kirsten is much less totally drawn than Joe, whose again story makes him a just lately returned veteran of the Korean War. (The fight flashback Joe suffers throughout one drunken binge feels gratuitous.)
Kirsten will get no such context, and consequently appears oddly modern, which makes the present, for all its ’50s design thrives, really feel unrooted in time. (Sets are by Lizzie Clachan, costumes by Dede Ayite.) Kirsten is conscious of the sexism that pervades her period — she makes snappy reference to the minuscule variety of feminine senators — however the present doesn’t totally appear to be. (Warning: Spoilers forward.)
There is not any sense of the opprobrium that might greet a feminine alcoholic within the Fifties, not to mention one who leaves her little one, or the extreme judgment that might be handed on a married girl who sleeps with unusual males when she’s on a bender. Or how any of that might contribute to Kirsten’s personal self-loathing.
Still, this “Days of Wine and Roses” has wells of compassion for her thrall to alcohol.
“Don’t give up on me,” Kirsten writes to her daughter. She may even imply it when she provides: “I’ll be home soon.”
Days of Wine and Roses
Through July 16 on the Linda Gross Theater, Manhattan; atlantictheater.org. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes.
Source web site: www.nytimes.com