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Theater Review (LA): The Rainmaker by N. Richard Nash at A Noise Within

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A Noise Within in Glendale is presenting a first-rate production of The Rainmaker by N. Richard Nash. The Rainmaker premiered on Broadway in 1954 and was revived in 1999 and 2007. It was made into a movie in 1956 with Katherine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster, and later adapted as the musical 110 In The Shade. The play has become a perennial favorite at theaters around the world. Now seems a good time to see this play, which is filled with hope, self-acceptance, and human renewal.

The play is set in the 50’s, steeped in the whole idea of the American Dream and the feeling that anything is possible if we only believe. Set in the drought-ridden Plains, it is the story of Lizzie Curry, who sees herself, and whose family sees her, as plain, and destined to be an old maid. A man claiming to know how to make rain (the rainmaker) appears on the scene and in the course of 24 hours changes everyone’s life, including his own. The current production features a cast that is wholly believable as a family.

Mitchell Edmonds plays the father, and this is one of the best performances I have seen by this actor. His H.C. Curry is a strong man with a big heart. Most importantly, Mr. Edmonds finds a way to play him with great humor. Steve Weingartner is perfectly cast as the rigid and sensible Noah, with Ross Hellwig as his wilder younger brother Jim, both beautifully played. Both these actors bring fresh insight into their respective roles. Weingartner’s Noah has a tender side, and Hellwig’s Jimmy is not played as stupid, just young and head-over-heels in love.

Mr. Edmonds is believable as a man who has to father these two very different sons as well as their tomboyish sister Lizzy, here played by Bridget Flanery. Ms. Flanery is especially effective in the scenes with Bo Foxworth, who plays Starbuck, the rainmaker. I have very slight caveats about both Flanery and Foxworth, however. She tends to pout in the early part of the play, which makes her seem petulant. He lacks a certain seriousness that Starbuck must have to be fully effective; it is important for Starbuck to be played as bigger than life, and as a man who really believes his own lies. Despite these qualifications, both deliver good performances. Handsome Scott Roberts plays File the Sheriff with just the right mixture of stiffness and sympathy.

The production is well directed by Andrew Traister. He directed the superb Waiting For Godot that is being revived for a short run this season. My only wish is that there had been rain through the windows at the end, or that Starbuck would reenter soaking wet. There is great original music created for this production by David O. The evocative set is by James P. Taylor.

The Rainmaker plays in repertory at A Noise Within through Dec 6th.

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