Directed by Stephen M. Genovese
Produced by BoHo Theatre
At Theater Wit, Chicago
Moving story about dreams and self-image wonderfully presented
Director Stephen M. Genovese made the bold decision to forgo the normal 99 seat layout at Theatre Wit for a more intimate, close-up setting for the wonderful N. Richard Nash’s The Rainmaker. Genovese, also the set designer, added depth and heart to the show by allowing the audience to literally look into the eyes of the characters.
With only 54 seats, I’d advise getting your tickets quickly since you’ll want to see this outstandingl show. We meet the Curry family: father H.C (Robert Frankel), brothers Noah (Daniel Gilbert) and Jim (Nate Santana) and Lizzie (Anna Hammonds)- the sister, housekeeper, and cook. It is the Depression Era in drought-stricken American West (Oklahoma?). Cattle are dying and the temperature is 110 in the shade.
The Curry brothers and the father are trying to get their sister/daughter married off before she reaches “old maid” status. Lizzie sees herself as plain, well-read yet socially shy. She retreats into her safe lonely world of her bedroom rather than try to communicate with suitors.
Deputy Sheriff File (Thad Anzur) is the lonely unmarried (widower?) who also is shy and awkward around women after his wife ran away with a teacher. The Curry’s try to set him up with Lizzie but to no avail.
When a stranger, a fast-talking man, Starbuck (Matthew Keffer), arrives at the Curry ranch, his high-powered charismatic manner and slick talking charms H.C. and young Jim but turns off the pragmatic skeptical Noah and Lizzie. Starbuck promises to deliver rain within 24 hours for $100. Starbuck is “selling” hope–dreams- promising rain if the family has faith in him and if they do his rituals. Jim beats a drum and H.C. paints a white arrow on the lawn while Noah ties their mule’s legs together. Sparks fly from Starbuck toward Lizzie who barely acknowledges them at first.
Gradually, we see File try to socialize with Lizzie who by now is totally infatuated with Starbuck-who gets her to see herself as beautiful and worthy of love. Her self-esteem soars as Starbuck gets intimate with the love-starved woman.
Is Starbuck a hustler, a confidence man or is he really a miracle worker? Can he get folks to dream? H.C. and Jim want to believe and they see that he has given Lizzie hope. This results in a often funny yet poignant play that allows everyone to see life with new insights that include faith that they’re dreams can happen. Lizzie grows confident, File comes out of his shell while Jim becomes a man and H.C. keeps believing. Does it rain? See the show to find out. The acting was excellent with Ana Hammonds and Matthew Keffer leading the way. Nate Santana adds spark while Daniel Gilbert attempts to keep things ‘real.’ The Rainmaker is one of those heartfelt, honest plays that will stir your belief in the human spirit. Terrific writing with expert direction and honest acting is a familiar formula for Bo Ho Theatre. This show is wonderful – don’t miss it.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: April 7, 2012
For more info checkout The Rainmaker page at theatreinchicago.com
At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, IL, www.bohotheatre.com, tickets $20 – $25, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pn, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through May 6, 2012