Review of The Rainmaker
Written by Richard Nash
Directed by Patrick Nims
Sonoma Arts Live
For tickets / schedule :
Sonoma Community Center, Sonoma
RUN: October 13-29, 2017
RATING: 4.5 of 5 stars
(October 27, 2017)
Unrelenting heat oppresses the Curry’s ranch; cattle are perishing in the drought and tempers have worn to a thread, ready to lash out. Compensating for the powerless feeling of watching their home fall apart without a cloud in the sky or chance of rain, family members cling to lifelines of their own making. Noah’s rational view of the world becomes an obsession, while Jim finds himself swept into a whirlwind romance, despite the impracticality it poses. The household is on the verge of open conflict when a smooth-talking con artist arrives with wild stories of how he can make it rain for a mere one hundred dollars. On a whim, the father agrees, considering it a gamble worth attempting, and goes along with the stranger’s odd requests.
Playwright Richard Nash crafts fascinating arcs for each character. This is not a high drama play; The Rainmaker is an in-depth view of what causes human motivations and actions. Forced by circumstances to examine inner beliefs, the family is permanently changed by what they discover.
Lizzy’s story touched me, because despite modern assurances that it is perfectly fine for a woman to be alone, there comes a time when you wonder if perhaps it is due to being worthless and unattractive; being an “old maid” may not have as much stigma today, but it is still a difficult struggle that is often unacknowledged. Powerfully acted by Abbey Lee, Lizzy is not interested in outlandish dreams for her future, she has quiet hopes that appear to be slipping away. When Noah takes out his anger on her, shouting that she is plain over and over, Lizzy breaks down, wallowing in self-loathing. Bill Starbuck (Tyler McKenna) picks up the pieces, reminding her that the only looking glass that matters is what she sees in herself. McKenna maintains a confident exterior, revealing layers of self-doubt through body language and flashes of pleading eye contact with Lizzy.
There is no weak link in the cast; Nick Gallagher portrays Noah’s grim desperation and scramble for a well-ordered structure in the family, Matthew Loewenstein’s File is hiding from the truth about his wife, pushing through his reluctance to speak out, Montgomery Paulsen is a soothing, caring father as H.C. and Nick Moore’s rash Jim radiates youthful enthusiasm and innocence.
Adding relaxing ambience through traditional cowboy songs, Rick Love as Sheriff Thomas has a pleasant, natural singing voice. He led an entertaining sing-along before the show with the audience laughing and clapping along. Scene transitions were enjoyable with his appearances to pass the time with favorites like “Tennessee Waltz” and “Get Along Little Dogies” on his guitar.
Director Patrick Nims utilizes Bruce Lackovic’s tiered, rustic set design for silent moments of rummaging through the kitchen, folding blankets in the tack room, and frantic clearing up in the sheriff’s office, without the need for dialog. Take a deep breath, sit back, and be present in this timeless story of self-discovery and hope. The Rainmaker challenges us to find a balance between dreams and reality, because in that space we can truly live.