Hollywood superstar JULIA ROBERTS' New York theatre debut has failed to impress critics, who have labelled her performance "stiff with self-consciousness" and "ill at ease". After a two-year hiatus from acting to raise her young twins PHINNAEUS WALTER and HAZEL PATRICIA, Roberts is making her Broadway debut alongside Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper in Joe Mantello's production of THREE DAYS OF RAIN, which opened last night (19APR06). In the first act, Roberts plays Rudd's on-stage sister NAN, before taking on the character's mother LINA in the second act. The New York Times critic writes, "She's stiff with self-consciousness, only glancingly acquainted with the two characters she plays. Her voice is strangled, abrupt and often hard to hear. She has the tenseness of a woman who might break into pieces at any second." The New York Post says, "In the first act, she looked long-faced, long-nosed and almost ordinary. How come? In her movies, do they use magic cameras on her or something?" The New York Sun is particularly scathing, saying, "Ms Roberts's Nan may have been awkward, but her Lina borders on embarrassing. Drifting in and out of Lina's Southern accent, grasping at any 'playable' sign of mental illness, Ms Roberts works her way around the stage with the self-consciousness of a homecoming queen being forced to stand up and play BLANCHE DuBOIS (STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE character) in English class." While the New York Daily News adds, "As mesmerising as she is onscreen, she has surprisingly little stage presence." The Washington Post writes, "Roberts looks ill at ease in the play's first moments... But her Nan is withdrawn, too remote to be read by the audience, and so interest in the character is lost." The Chicago Tribune explains, "Roberts' orbit here feels so limited in range - and so lacking in oomph, projection and the necessary vocal support - that one has to repress an urge to jump up on stage, get close to that famous, wide-mouthed visage, and see precisely what she's doing."