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The Rainmaker

a Comedy/Drama
CATEGORY : COMEDY DRAMA
by N. Richard Nash

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 478

SHOWING : May 17, 2002 - June 16, 2002

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Set in the West during a paralyzing drought, rancher H. C. Curry worries as much about his plain daughter Lizzie, fast becoming an old maid, as he does about the lack of rain. Suddenly, from out of nowhere appears Bill Starbuck, a charming, young gentleman with a silver tongue and the most grandiose notions a man could imagine. He promises to end the dry spell for only $100. Starbuck must not only bring rain but he is the only one who can convince Lizzie that she possesses a beauty all her own.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Montica Pes
Stage Manager Christy Mauldin
Starbuck Damon Boggess
Lizzie Barbara Cole Uterhardt
Jimmy Matt Johnson
H.C. Marshall Marden
Sheriff Nick Rhoton
Noah Michael Schneider
File Randy Weinstein
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REVIEWS

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Feeling's Mutual
by Mama Alma
Saturday, June 1, 2002
5.0
When I was a young girl, Janice Ian had a song called “Seventeen.” I’d play it over and over, to my mother’s distraction, feeling sorry for myself on Saturday nights when, instead of going out as I was sure all the pretty, popular girls did, I did the plain, practical thing and studied for a calculus test. “Rainmaker” has always had a certain resonance for me: a plain girl, whose worth should be obvious to any idiot with two eyes, who languishes because of preconceived notions of what’s pretty and what’s feminine, finally gets her due when the handsome stranger strolls into town and golly, gee, wants her. I know, I know: scratch a cynic, you’ll find a romantic.

Lizzie, the anti-princess of this tale, and her menfolk, are living through a drought, the life literally being sucked out of them by the heat. Cattle are dying and the farm is failing. It’s a metaphor, what can I say. The handsome stranger in the tale doesn’t ride in on a white horse. He’s a snake oil salesman, a carnival huckster, a con man, rolling in on a brightly colored wagon, full of wild dreams and crazy promises, like making it rain when there isn’t a cloud in the sky. As embodied by Damon Boggess, Starbuck reminded me of a Revival Meeting Preacher. If only everybody had a little more faith in him, he could bring a deluge. [The connection to that image was so strong for me, it got me wondering what Boggess could do with that other iconic Burt Lancaster role, Elmer Gantry. Have faith, sister.]

He’s not getting any help from Noah, the antithetically named older brother, who only believes in the bottom line and facts, plain and simple. (Wonder where Lizzie gets the idea she’s plain?) But the younger boy, Jimmy, is all about faith (though Noah has tried to bash it out of him, especially faith in himself). And the father, H.C., is willing to take what he calls a gamble (a “leap of faith”), because, as he says, “sometimes people pay off better than cattle.”

Matt Johnson, as Jimmy, is a standout. He plays Jimmy not so much as a dimwit as a big overgrown teenager. It helps that he towers over Michael Schneider, lending to the gawky image. Schneider is in his element playing the solid, safe as houses Noah. He’s the guy you want to see on the ladder getting you out of the burning building. He’s the cop on the scene of an accident that takes charge and brings order out of chaos. He’s the quintessential big brother. It’s in the interplay between these two characters that the play has some of its more hilarious moments. I dare you to hear the word panatella ever again without your lips forming a smile.

Marshall Marden as H.C. brings a studied calm and authority to the part of the father. You believe he’s seen it all, lived through it all, and can still make his grown son come to heel (albeit grudgingly) from clean across a room. Similarly well played are Nick Rhoton in the part of the sheriff and Randy Weinstein as the hapless deputy who wants nothing to do with the Curry clan and their efforts to “marry Lizzie off.”

And we’re back to Lizzie (Barbara Cole). Not only “plain,” she’s plain spoken, as well. I’ve seen Cole tackle this kind of role before – she seems to be making her way through the canon of Southern Women (well, there was that one Bronx receptionist, but I digress), and I knew she could handle the honesty part, but “plain”? This is where Hollywood would have put the character in glasses and called it a disguise. Cole went a different way. Pulling her hair back into a neat bun, wearing practical shoes and a serviceable apron, she’s schooled her trademark smile into a series of smirks, quirks and looks of bemusement that suggest a much loved and revered, older, maiden aunt – which is exactly what Lizzie is afraid she’s becoming.

It takes something as big as the sky and with all the power of a man in his name to literally shake her out of her shoes and get her to let down her hair. In an interesting twist, I went to see this production a third time because Nick Rhoton, the actor playing the sheriff, understudied the role of Starbuck and did it for two performances. I wanted to contrast the two actors, and it was a revelation. Boggess and Rhoton are both fine young actors, but where Boggess suggested fire and faith, a conversion of the soul, Rhoton suggested loss and redemption, a reclaiming of worth. And for both actors, in the end, Starbuck doesn’t save Lizzie. Starbuck and Lizzie save each other. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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