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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Theatre review: The Rainmaker takes its time

It takes its time, but it’s still powerful.

[pullquote]This production of The Rainmaker gets trapped in the play’s challenges, but when it finally gets to where it is going its story can still pack a wallop.[/pullquote]Written in 1954, The Rainmaker is grand American Gothic with down on the luck good honest people, hoping to find some relief.  Lizzie is back from a matchmaking venture; her two brothers and father were hoping she might find a mate. They needed some good news because their rural township has been devastated by drought and their cows are dying. But things are dry all over, no marriage proposals for Lizzie and no rain for the Curry family.

This production boasts some very powerful performances that capture both the cornpone humour and the almost operatic passion.

Andrew Wheeler as the tired and hopeful father is riveting and while he remains devoted to his children, he can still see their flaws. Ryan Scramstrad as the younger, simpler brother finds all the humour of this 1950’s himbo, but with such a great big heart that he often devastates. Robert Salvador is Starbuck, the charlatan rainmaker who holds promise for Lizzie and her family, and has the sexy conman down, but also finds the earnest romantic that makes you root for him.

Pippa Johnstone as Lizzie has the self-accepted heaviness of someone who has lived life as a ‘plain girl’ and she finds so much cautious joy when she thinks she is going on a date that it breaks your heart. Late in the play the older brother, played with righteousness by Kenton Klassen, blasts her with some painful truths, but it is played too internally, denying us of the plummet of her esteem.

Director Ron Reed has done a warm and heartfelt job, with an obvious love and respect for the material, but the pacing of this three-act play is challenging, compounded by its set changes.

John Webber has created a stylized, scaly dry set, complete with tumble weeds and soil drifts built up around the dining room table, but in combining The Rainmaker‘s unhurried script with stagehands removing props and furniture that are barely utilized, is frustrating.

The challenge of mounting a 60-year old play is not only do you have to find relevance in the narrative and theme for modern audiences, but you have to recognize presentation and structure of its story. Older scripts like this one can spend a long time setting up characters and place before shifting to the plot. A modern audience expects stories to hit the ground running.

This production of The Rainmaker gets trapped in those challenges, but when it finally gets to where it is going its story can still pack a wallop.

The Rainmaker by N. Richard Nash. Directed by Ron Reed. A Pacific Theatre production. On stage at Pacific Theatre (1440 West 12 Ave) until November 1. Visit for tickets and information.

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