Six characters find an author

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WaterTower's Three Days of Rain is another instructive lesson in the art of casting--a graceful tango between actor and role. Jack O'Donnell is charming as both shy guy Ned and abrasive lost soul Walker, although he seems less showy, ironically, when he's playing Ned, whose part requires stammering, stuttering, and hand movements in the struggle to express himself. I must say, Candace Evans' heavy Suh-thuhn accent as Lina was a bit of a controversial choice. Couple this with Lina's much-discussed insanity, and we have to force memories of Blanche DuBois out of our heads during her opening lines. But because Evans drives the accent, not vice versa, she manages to summon a unique, unobtrusive characterization. Bill Jenkins has whittled callowness down to a hard, sharp shape as Pip, and he manages to reverse course and appear tempestuously talented as Theo, who is the self-proclaimed "genius" half of the "genius and taste" team that is Theo and Ned.

The forecast calls for exciting theater at WaterTower, providing it does more strong stagings of new plays like Three Days of Rain. That gruesome pun will have been worth it if it can find the inspiration to fulfill higher ambitions than Chapter Two and Forever Plaid, two shows from 1998. Is that what the town of Addison spent $6 million to showcase? If so, then WaterTower must be one of the most expensive community theaters in the country.

Three Days of Rain runs through April 3. Call (972) 450-6232.

The late Norma Young, founder of Theatre Three, once said that the only way you could make a living in theater was by being able to do a little bit of everything, from carpentry to singing. At 22, SMU grad and Undermain associate Cameron Cobb is down with Norma on this one. He's a terrific actor (Uncle Bob, Therese Raquin), a composer (Straight Jacket and Tie, Wallpaper Psalm), a fight choreographer (Polaroid Stories), and, now, a playwright. Didymus is Cobb's retelling of the resurrection of Christ as a philosophical contest between two apostles: Didymus Thomas, who believes that faith must be rooted in the unseen, the intangible, and Peter, who thinks that the world can't handle that much work, and so Christ's body must be removed from the tomb after the crucifixion and hidden so that the resurrection will appear to have "really" happened. They eventually do steal the body, setting in motion a chain of conflicts that robs one man of his ability to believe.

Heady stuff for a guy who's been able to legally drink for only a year. Cobb, who describes himself as "the cliche: I'm spiritual but not religious," is an unpretentious charmer, tossing off references to Gnostic cults and Sanhedrins at the same time he's confessing that he got into theater for a pretty basic reason.

"A group of guys were sitting around talking about the reasons we'd chosen theater," he laughs. "And we were spinning philosophies and noble intentions. But eventually, it got down to 'There was this girl I liked in a play.' Some people pursue this noble profession called theater, and we booty-called it into being."

Although he's still young, Cobb's dedication to theater has lasted somewhat longer than the average booty call. His other plays include Commonwealth, which got a workshop production at last summer's Williamstown Theatre Festival and concerns a convergence of strangers at an accident ("Artaud wrote that the truest drama happens spontaneously when people have a car wreck," he says.), and Jarry's Tree, a play about racial attitudes that Cobb describes as "Harold Pinter smokes a joint with John O'Keefe." Meanwhile, Didymus is receiving its world premiere production at the Deep Ellum Center for the Arts courtesy of Ground Zero Theatre Company.

Director Kimberlyn Crowe has enticed three very talented Dallas actors--David Stroh, Greg Gormley, and Lyn Mathis--for the maiden voyage of a play that has roots in Cobb's readings and various observations.

"The official statement of the Jewish high priests shortly after Christ's burial was that the disciples had taken the body and destroyed it to make it look like a resurrection," Cobb says. "And I thought, well, what if they did? What would this kind of conspiracy have been like?

Cobb is well aware that Didymus may face resistance from non-Christians, who don't want to be preached at, and devout Christians, some of whom have already reacted angrily to this young upstart messing with one of the foundation stories of Western religion. He insists that the Christianity is merely a metaphorical device to tell a larger story, and that those who can resist stooping to dogma will see that its challenges are a reaffirmation of believing in something greater than yourself--whether it is Jesus, Allah, or art.

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Jimmy Fowler