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The Rainmaker

a Drama
by N. Richard Nash

COMPANY : Centerstage North Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The Art Place - Mountain View
ID# 5143

SHOWING : October 06, 2017 - October 14, 2017



At the time of a paralyzing drought in the West we discover a girl whose father and two brothers are worried as much about her potential future as an old maid as they are about their dying cattle. For the truth is, she is indeed a plain girl. The brothers try every possible scheme to marry her off, but without success. Nor is there any sign of relief from the dry heat, when suddenly from out of nowhere appears a picaresque, sweet-talking man with quite the sales pitch. Claiming to be a “rainmaker,” the man promises to bring rain, for $100. It’s a silly idea, but the rainmaker is so refreshing and persistent that the family finally consents, banging on big brass drums to rattle the sky. Meanwhile the rainmaker also turns his magic on the girl, and persuades her that she has a very real beauty of her own. She believes it, just as her father believes the fellow can actually bring rain. Rain does come, and so does love.

Asst. Director Lisa Clark
Director Julie Taliaferro
Lighting Designer Jon Liles
Stage Manager Sorcha Masters
Sound Designer Brenda Peed
Sheriff Thomas James Connor
Noah Ian Gibson
Jim Nate Gutoski
H.C. Jerry Jobe
Starbuck R. Clay Johnson
Set Design John Parker Jr.
File Freddy Lynn Wilson
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N. Richard Gnashed
by playgoer
Saturday, October 14, 2017
N. Richard Nash’s "The Rainmaker" tells the story of a lonely woman living on a ranch with her father and brothers. An equally lonely deputy in town and a solitary con man passing through the area seem to be her only hopes for life as anything other than a spinster. It’s usually played with the loneliness emphasized, highlighted with streaks of character-driven humor. In CenterStage North’s production, comedy gets more of an emphasis.

John Parker’s set design is stunning. Walls in pallet form appear equal parts rustic and elegant, with a trellis-fenced walkway and a blue cyclorama visible behind. The far stage right of the wide playing space represents a tack room, complete with hayloft. The far stage left represents the sheriff’s office. The central part represents the Curry house, with dining table stage right and living room sofa stage left, a screen door behind it. Period-appropriate props give the spaces a feel of being lived in. John Kovacks’s costumes also give a period feel, although not quite as successfully.

John Lisle’s lighting design enhances the set design, with lovely gobos dappling the living room floor with shadows of foliage and spreading starlight across the hayloft. Brenda Orchard’s sound covers prop-clearing set changes with soothing music. This is a good-looking, good-sounding production.

Julie Taliaferro has blocked the production to make use of the full width of the stage. For scenes at the far left and far right, this can induce neck strain in audience members on the opposite ends of the space. Most of the action, though, takes place in the center, with movement keeping most actors visible at all times.

Performances are assured throughout the cast. Jerry Jobe plays a warm-hearted, easy-going father, with Nate Gutoski his eager, life-loving, slightly goofy younger son. Ian Gibson plays the older son with flat, deadpan delivery that gets some of the biggest laughs in the show, and he also gets to show some unrepressed passion late in the play. Freddy Lynn Wilson and James Connor are perfectly in tune as File and the sheriff, and their scenes together are everything a playgoer could wish. R. Clay Johnson has an impish glint as con man Starbuck, with sincerity winning out over slickness. LeeAnna Lambert Sweatt, however, plays the central role of Lizzie with off-putting stridency, making it difficult to relate to Lizzie’s plight as an unmarried woman approaching middle age. Her volume and animation make it seem as if she were playing in a light comedy in a large auditorium, in contrast to everyone else in the cast. There are levels in her performance, but levels without nuance result in laughs.

Most elements of CenterStage North’s "The Rainmaker" point toward a notable, or perhaps an excellent production. It’s primarily the imbalance between the cohesive male performances and the outlying single female performance that drive the poignancy out of the story. Playing for laughs can’t compare to playing the audience’s heartstrings, at which "The Rainmaker" usually excels. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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