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The Rainmaker

a Drama
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by N. Richard Nash

COMPANY : Lionheart Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : College Street Playhouse
ID# 5334

SHOWING : September 07, 2018 - September 23, 2018

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

During the Depression era in the Midwest, con man Bill Starbuck acts as a rainmaker, but is chased out of town after town. One day, he arrives in a drought-ridden rural town in Texas and shows up at the door of spinsterish Lizzie Curry and the rest of the Curry clan. Lizzie keeps house for her father H.C. and two brothers on the family cattle ranch. As their farm languishes under the devastating drought, Lizzie’s family worries about her marriage prospects more than about their dying cattle.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Joanie McElroy
Noah Curry Ben Humphrey
Sheriff Thomas Jerry Jobe
Bill Starbuck Brock Kercher
H.C. Curry Joseph McLaughlin
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REVIEWS

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Let the Rain Come
by playgoer
Monday, September 10, 2018
4.5
N. Richard Nash’s "The Rainmaker" is a perennial standard for community theatres. It’s not done to death, but it frequently pops up in the seasons of local theatres. (This is the second production of it for Lionheart, and Centerstage North presented it last fall; Theatrical Outfit presented the musical version, "110 in the Shade" earlier this year.) It’s an affecting story of a lonely woman making tentative connections with a lonely deputy and a lonely traveling con man, with lots of heart and humor.

The Lionheart production directed by Joanie McElroy shows the stamp of the director, with clearly defined characters interacting in viscerally exciting ways. The Lizzie of Gabrielle Stephenson has the bearing of a woman who has convinced herself that she is plain and unmarriageable, when it’s more her straight-shooting honesty that gives her that veneer. Joe McLaughlin plays her father with a combination of the practical and the aspirational that gives him a truly three-dimensional feel. Chandler Lane makes her brother Jimmy an exuberant, hot-headed, joy-loving young man feeling his oats under the guidance of his supportive father and his antagonistically unsupportive older brother, played by Ben Humphrey with a humorless glare that gives way to wordless support by the end.

This family interacts with the local sheriff (Jerry Jobe) and deputy (Jackson Trent) both in attempts to get the deputy to woo Lizzie and in investigations into a con man traveling through these parts. Mr. Jobe invests Sheriff Thomas with the calm and easy-going manner of a popular, level-headed official, while Mr. Trent gives deputy File a chip on his shoulder the size of Texas. Mr. Trent’s performance meshes beautifully with that of Ms. Stephenson, with their mutual attraction overwhelmed by the unflinching, brutal honesty that keeps them at loggerheads until nearly the end.

The con man Starbuck is played by Brock Kercher. He plays his role with volume and conviction, but little nuance. Starbuck claims to be a rainmaker, and his spiel is more like that of a carnival barker than an evangelical preacher. He may excite, but he doesn’t beguile, and the role requires that with Lizzie his grandiose imaginings need to make a connection with her underlying yearnings, changing both of them slightly. In this production, it’s far clearer to see the connection between File and Lizzie than between Starbuck and Lizzie.

The set, designed by Tanya Moore, consists of three distinct areas: the Curry kitchen, which takes up two thirds of the stage; the sheriff’s office, which takes up the remaining third at stage right; and a tack room with bales of hay in front of the stage proper at stage left. All are well-appointed, with Nancy Keener’s props and the costumes (Catherine Thomas, consultant) giving the unmistakable feel of Texas. Gary White’s lighting design includes a nice starry sky element for the tack room scenes, and assists in scene transitions where action overlaps on the Curry side of the stage (with dark wood floors) and on the Sheriff Thomas side of the stage (with lighter wood floors), with the diagonal split of the floor planking giving additional room for the Currys.

Bob Peterson’s sound design helps to suggest the Southwest feel, and dialect coaching by Nancy Keener and Alan Lankford solidifies the Texas location. As is typical in productions directed by Ms. McElroy, a consistent sense of quality predominates, despite the anachronistic long hair and high-fiving of Mr. Lane. This rendition of "The Rainmaker" is a cut above most, needing only a more mesmerizingly charismatic Starbuck to propel it to true excellence. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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