Compassionate and discerning

The Rainmaker

Venue: Vancouver Playhouse

Date(s): March 18 - April 13, 2002

Reviewer: Jane Penistan

First performed in 1954, this play has featured in many theatre repertoires in over 40 countries, and in many translations. Small wonder, for this is a play about the necessity of having dreams of success in the midst of despair and of the eternal gift of hope to the human race. Dreams don't always come true, but there is always hope, and in The Rainmaker both are realized.

Into a drought-stricken family farm comes a wandering charmer who claims he can make rain, for a consideration of $100. The pragmatic older son of the family, Noah Curry, is a realist and on him the major running of the family enterprise rests. Noah (Ari Cohen) will have nothing to do with this con man who succeeds in winning the admiration of the somewhat starry-eyed younger brother, Jim, ingenuously played by Bob Frazer. Their sister Lizzie (Dawn Petten), has returned from a trip to visit cousins in town, whence the family expected Lizzie to return engaged to be married.

But Lizzie returns disillusioned and unloved. Into her life of taken for granted hard work comes the charismatic Bill Starbuck (William MacDonald). He lets Lizzie know that he admires her, and she in turn begins to warm to his seductive ways. Starbuck inveigles his way into lodging in the tack room of the barn until the rain comes.

The wise father, H.C. Curry (Tom Butler), sees through the wiles of the wandering rainmaker, but also realizes the heartening effect he has on Lizzie, and is prepared to gamble his hard-earned $100 to buy her a little happiness in a passing fling with this unknown stranger, who will move on soon, come what may.

What comes is trouble, in the form of Sheriff Thomas (David Adams) and his deputy, File (Christopher Sigurdson), looking for a wanted man, wanted for fraud. Time for Starbuck, the Rainmaker, to move on. File is not, as he likes to inform his neighbours, a widower, but a man whose wife has left him and is deeply hurt by the bitter rejection he feels.

Although the Curry men try to befriend him, File is suspicious of their motives. He has no wish to get involved with another woman, let alone Lizzie Curry. But in spite of himself, File is not ready to see Lizzie leave home with Starbuck, the maker of dreams.

In the tack room, Starbuck tries to persuade Lizzie to go away with him. Flattered as she is by his affection, Lizzie is at heart a realist. She does not really want the life of a nomadic romantic, and File's pleading, "Don't go!" clinches matters for her.

As Starbuck is leaving, evading the sheriff's deputy, he returns the one hundred dollars. Then the rain comes down in torrents. Taking back his fee, Starbuck vanishes. Lizzie and File go out and waltz in the life-prolonging storm.

This is a warm and compassionate rendering of a discerning romantic comedy. The characters are well defined and intelligently acted by a well-knit company.

The set and the clothes show the effect of a long dry summer on a once prosperous farm. The dryness and the heat could have been emphasized a little more, which would have made the climactic final rainstorm even more dramatic. The music composed by Leslie Uyeda is atmospheric and enhances the production.

2002, Jane Penistan

The Rainmaker runs at the Vancouver Playhouse, March 18 - April 13, 2002, Monday through Saturday at 8.00 p.m. with matinees every Saturday and selected Wednesdays at 2.00 p.m.
Adult tickets range from $33.00 to $44.00, Seniors from $29.00 to $37.00 and Students from $19.00 to $23.00. Group rates are also available.
Rush seats ($19.00) are available one hour before performance, subject to availability.
The BC-CTV Pay What You Can matinee is on Saturday March 23 at 2.00 p.m.
The Salon Saturday is on Saturday March 30 pre-show discussion (1.00 p.m.) features set and costume designer Pam Johnson.

To order Tickets contact the Playhouse Customer Service Office at 604-873-3311 or Ticketmaster at 604-280-3311.

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