One could argue that a really good play could easily be performed with no set. And yet sets add so much to the time and ambiance of an era. The same is true for costumes. When you have a really great cast of actors, then you don’t really need costumes. Audiences are so forgiving as they transcend reality and buy into a staged production.
However, there are problems with the current production of The Rainmaker at the Sherman Playhouse that could easily prevent one from buying into N. Richard Nash’s beautiful play. For starters, the set is not only distracting with its black doors, but it belies some of the lines in the play, which forces the audience to make note of the problem. When Jimmy Curry, the young brother in the cast looks out the stark black door and comments on how hot or bright the sun is, it’s near impossible to buy into the line. This negative reaction is compounded by the fact that there are windows on the set that do show various shades of light.
What makes this 1954 play so pertinent today and in any age is that it focuses on the importance of believing in one’s self. It also looks positively on having the ability to dream. The story is about Lizzie Curry, a young woman in the Mid-West who is smart and sassy and not willing to be anything but herself when it comes to finding a man to marry. In a family of a father and two brothers, Lizzie is the only female. The family loves Lizzie and are afraid that she will end up an old maid; so they try to find her a man.
There’s a lot more comedy in this drama than is evidenced in this production, but the attempts of the men in the family to find Lizzie a beau and her reluctance to “win” over a man provide some light-hearted moments. Leave it to a fake, a fraud, and a dreamer like Starbuck, a self proclaimed rainmaker, to start a deluge of activities that ultimately changes the views of the more serious family members.
Director Martin D. Rosato has assembled a cast with a mixed range of talent. Stacy-Lee Frome is by far the most accomplished actor in this production. Her natural ease and confidence in the role stand out and make her shine even more brightly than the man with a star in his name. Alexis M. Vournazos who plays Starbuck warms up to his shine, and Jeff Rossman as H.C. Curry ( “Pop”) is darn good. William H. Greenage IV is a bit too negative, but overall does a decent job as Noah, the strict older brother, while Thomas Ovitt as Jimmy Curry plays a role that requires more maturity. Martimus as File also plays the role a bit too cautiously and David Almquist as Sheriff Thomas delivers a fine performance.
Set design was a collaborative effort by Al Chiappetta, Martin D. Rosato, and Stacy-Lee Frome. Jessica Rosato’s sound design worked well and Lynn Nissenbaum’s costumes were character-appropriate. Overall, this is a wonderful play and the play is still the thing in this community theater production. It plays through Aug. 12. Box office: 860-354-3622
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]