For years, JP Miller’s “Days of Wine and Roses” — about a young couple in the grip of alcholism — might have been considered a period piece.
The 1962 film, starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick, helped to put a cork in the swinging ’50s by examining the impact of all those three-martini lunches.
But in the age of “Mad Men,” and those celebrated hard-drinking Madison Avenue types on TV, Schoolhouse Theater director Pam Moller Kareman is on to something in revisiting it.
Certainly, the play has never had a more stylish or sleek setting than it has at the Schoolhouse in Croton Falls, courtesy of a technical team that has raised the work to levels it had no right to expect.
Jason Bolen’s set, David Pentz’s lights, Kimberly Matela’s costumes, Matt Stine’s sound and jaw-dropping projections by Shawn E. Boyle firmly place the work in a cinematic swoon, blowing any dust that might have collected and giving it a gloss and fresh appeal.
Against this rich backdrop stand Rich Orlow and Quinn Cassavale, as Joe and Kirsten Clay, alcoholics. They meet at a booze-filled party and end up down by the river, taking long pulls off of a fifth.
Things go downhill from there for Joe and Kirstie, all the way down, to the point where they are taking tiny pulls off of a tiny bottle of vanilla extract, hoping for a much-needed kick. Kirstie’s treasured books — her loving father’s alternative to a college education for her — are swapped for enough money to buy a few more bottles.
Orlow brings real commitment to the work, along every step of his character’s considerable journey, from a guy with “a great line of bull” to full-blown alcoholic to recovering addict with the zeal of the converted. There isn’t a false note in his performance.
Likewise, Cassavale, a Schoolhouse regular, charts Kirstie’s path from fun-loving girl who protests that she doesn’t kiss on first dates to the glow of new motherhood to the floor of a seedy motel.
The ensemble populates the stage with characters who add heft to the work. Kudos, in particular, to Keith Barber as Ellis Arnesen, Kirstie’s father, for striking the right balance of bitterness and denial, concern and acceptance.
It may be hard to watch such self-destructive behavior, but in the capable hands of Kareman and her Schoolhouse team, it’s impossible to look away.
“The Days of Wine and Roses,” 8 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m., Sundays (through March 25) at The Schoolhouse Theater, 3 Owens Road, Croton Falls. $33 on Thursdays and Fridays; $35 Saturdays and Sundays. 914-277-8477. www.schoolhousetheater.org.
Photo by Tom Levin: Rich Orlow and Quinn Cassavale in “Days of Wine and Roses.”