Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

Right As Rain

By April Smallwoodright as rain by april smallwod

Directed by Toma Tavares Langston

Co-Directed by Eileen Tull

Produced by Innate Volution Theatre Productions

At North Lakeside Cultural Center Chicago

New take on the effects of religious extremism a cautionary tale

Innate Volution Theatre Productions found April Smallwood’s Right As Rain from their New Play Circle  Series of staged readings. This world premiere production takes stock characters and situations putting new twists on them while combining a coming-of-age and coming-out teenage angst story with religious extremism. The result is a dramatic expression of the effects.

right as rain by april smallwod

Smallwood’s play finds Luke Stevens (Ethan Izkow), a 17 year old son of a maverick Evangical preacher, as he adjusts to rural life in a new location. He befriends Chance (Pavel Tabutow), a gay boy who barley hides his sexuality. Chance visits the Stevens’ home and he attends a religious service and hears Reverend Paul’s (Arne Saupe) fundamentalist sermon. He laughs, the reverend instantly dislikes Chance. Sarah Stevens (Eileen Tull) is the loving mother and family enabler. Paul is building his own church behind the house. Luke helps him on Sundays.

right as rain by april smallwod

When Chance and Luke are alone in Luke’s room playing video games, sparks fly. Chance’s flirts are obvious yet Luke is both flattered and confused. The Srtevens’ couple goes out of town for a weekend and Luke invites Chance (in defiance of his father’s wishes) to stay over. Chance brings liquor and pron as he challenges Luke to get drunk as a sort of right of passage. Luke succumbs and the two have drunken sex. Chance is determined yet his love for Luke holds him back from being too sexually commanding.  Luke loves having sex with a guy yet he still maintains that he like girls also. Luke’s conflict is complex since his father and his religion forbids living gay. He is in denial of his own feelings.

Luke is terrified about being outed at school. The scenes where Luke struggles with his urges and his religion are nicely illustrated. Ethan Izkow gives a strong, deeply emotional and honest performance as Luke. He is a most empathetic character.

right as rain by april smallwod

I’ll not reveal more so as not to spoil act three’s action. However, Smallwood has Paul and Sarah’s reactions when they learn that Luke is gay to be realistic and consistent with the narrow mindedness  of the religious right. There is no made-for-TV ending here – thankfully. Right As Rain vividly depicts the torment a gay boy can experience when his religious beliefs and his family structure are based on him being straight. Luke emotionally finds his world collapsed into chaos. Smartly, Smallwood doesn’t have a definite answer to Luke’s trouble.  This show is worth seeing.


Tom Williams

At North Lakeside Cultural Center, 6219 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago, IL, call 312-513-1415, tickets $15, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with 2 intermissions, through April 24, 2010

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