★★★★☆ - Delicious
Winner of the now-defunct Queensland Premier’s Literary Award and the 2009 Australian Writers Guild Award for Best New Drama, “When the Rain Stops Falling,” by Andrew Bovell, is beautifully written. It’s a veritable symphony of words spanning two continents and, in a mixture of present, future, and past, tells the story of four generations. It’s a family saga in a two hour play about the destruction wrought by keeping secrets. Or, as two characters turn it, “having nothing to say is just another way of having so much to say that you dare not begin.”
Directors Anne Marie Pereth and Joseph D. Kucan have assembled a very capable ensemble. The production unfolds as a morose mystery as a young man goes in search of the father he’s been told abandoned him. Yet, there are lines which invoke laughter. It’s a solid production that unfolds as if the conductor has rewritten it to an unvarying 4:4 time signature. It also takes some work to follow the through-line.
Christopher Brown has the dual roles of Gabriel York and Henry Law (York’s grandfather). As happens in real-life families, Brown brings common quirks to both roles. As Gabriel York, he’s self-deprecating with a wry sense of humor, using off-beat phrasing in starts and stops. As Henry Law, he’s a confused, frightened man. Brown subtly brings in a facial expression, a gesture, or turn of phrase every so often that reminds of the family connection but manages to keep the characters separate and real.
As step-father Joe Ryan, Timothy Cummings does justice to a man who takes on a ready-made family. Through deeds and vocal expression, Cummings is attentive, understanding, and loves wholly even when that devotion is not reciprocated. His is a fully-realized Ryan who evokes emotional response.
Valerie Carpenter Bernstein brings a very convincing older Elizabeth Law to life. The bitterness of betrayal roils just beneath the surface even while regret tinge movements as she pushes on with life, albeit with the help of a bottle.
There’s a quality that Mike Rasmussen delivers whenever he’s on stage that rings true in every note in the roles of Gabriel Law and (his grandson) Andrew Price. Rasmussen does what all exceptional actors do: he makes it look easy. Every line of dialogue, every movement feels as if it comes organically in the moment.
Tina Rice (Elizabeth Law, younger), Jamie Carvelli-Pikrone (Gabrielle York, younger), and Jane C. Walsh (Gabrielle York, older) complete the cast, and all do convincing portrayals. Rice, Walsh, Bernstein, and Carvelli-Pikrone, all ensure they bring commonalities into their portrayals, making it easier to follow time frames even when all four are present on stage.
The production values are all top-notch. Scenic Designer Eric A. Koger wisely kept things simple. Four tables, seven chairs, one small shelving unit, and masking flats keep the flow of time and setting fluid and adaptable to the shifting timelines. Crossing strings creating an entrance arch upstage visualize driving rain. Joshua Wroblewski’s sometimes eerie lighting not only adds to the moods, it brings places into clearer view. Toss in Tim Sage’s exquisite sound design with background rain and thunder, along with haunting music composed and performed by Rasmussen, and you’ve got total environment.
That environment is visually picturesque at the opening, immediately setting atmosphere with the projected rain. But, actors circling the set in reference to one subtheme of the play, goes on too long and severs the connection. Despite the efforts of dialect coaches, some actors have difficulty in sustaining the accents.
In the Details Matter Department, miming soup in bowls is understandable even with wine being realistic. What doesn’t work is the need to mop a wet face, and having a wet shirt collar when the remaining clothing (from my audience viewpoint) is perfectly dry.
Despite its flaws, the production of this play will appeal to those who like their tales told in esoteric ways. It’s an intriguing, intellectual, and compelling literary treatise on how the sins of the fathers are often visited upon the sons.
What: When the Rain Stops Falling
When: 8 p.m. Thursday - Saturday; 2 p.m. Sundays through November 13
2 p.m. Saturday November 5 & 12
Where: The Usual Place, 100 S. Maryland Parkway
Tickets: $20 - $25 (www.apublicfit.org)
Grade: **** Delicious
Producer: A Public Fit; Artistic Director: Ann Marie Pereth; Producing Director: Joseph D. Kucan; Director: Ann Marie Pereth, Joseph D. Kucan; Set Design: Eric A. Koger; Lighting Design: Joshua Wroblewski; Sound Design: Tim Sage; Costume Design: Mariya Radeva-Nedyalkova; Stage Manager: Brandi Blackman