There are some heart-wrenching aspects to the plot of N. Richard Nash’s romantic comedy, “The Rainmaker.” But happily, the ever-talented Crighton Players, under the fine direction of veteran director, Joe Viser, have preserved the author’s great sense of comic fun. It was that skillful use of humor that tempered the many moments of family tension in this delightful play that had its final performance Saturday night at the Crighton Theatre. But there was much more than fun in this tour-de-force example of brilliant ensemble acting from a superb cast.
The fine scenic design of Viser and Gil Mendez provided a rustic country house interior set in the drought-ridden Midwest of the 1930’s. Effective smaller sets, at either side of the stage, provided a sheriff’s office and barn interior. Everything was well lit with the lighting designs of Justin Woods. It is also worth mentioning that no microphones were in evidence, but every word was clearly audible from the stage with this very strong cast of actors.
The play tells the poignant story of a farm family named Curry. Noah Curry (Dennis O’Connor) is a surly, cantankerous brother to very unmarried Lizzie (Cindy Siple). O’Connor creates quite an interesting character here with a well-crafted accent, fierce eyes, furrowed brow, and endless scowl. He hilariously taunts his brother Jim, (Rob Price) about flirtations with a girl of ill-repute named Snooky McGuire. Their father, H.C. Curry, (played with great voice and command by Marty Fleck) referees the boys’ arguments about the best way to find a husband for timid Lizzie before she is certifiable as an old maid. Siple begins her sensitive performance with Lizzie’s touching account of her unsuccessful visit to cousins in Sweet River where it was hoped she would find a husband. Her father tries to tenderly cheer her with “You’re afraid of being beautiful,” but she counters, “I know I’m not.” Then Lizzie’s family plots to match her up with File (Joe Winter), the deputy to Sheriff Thomas (amiably portrayed by Harley Dampier). Winter and Dampier are a good comic pairing and great fun to watch. The one-sided phone conversation Jim has with the Snooky we never meet adds to the merriment.
Then, with a considerable flourish, enters Starbuck, the Rainmaker, (Allen Doris). With black western hat, red shirt, black vest and a heavy dose of blarney, he walks into the house and announces, “Here I am, crazy as a bed bug!” No one argues the point, and the fun escalates from there as this fast talking con artist tries to convince the family of skeptics that he can produce rain for a hundred dollar fee. Mr. Doris is very compelling in the role, and when he looks skyward with wide eyes, we can almost visualize the gathering storm clouds.
When File is finally persuaded to come calling on Lizzie, Miss Siple is a riot sashaying about like a floozy until File makes a run for it. Siple then shows her fine acting range as Noah cruelly tells her she is plain and will never marry. Mr. Curry admonishes him, “Noah, you’re so full of what’s right, you can’t see what’s good!” We can feel the heartbreaking desperation of the crushed Lizzie in Siple’s powerful performance. But Lizzie is salvaged in a touching barn scene with Starbuck where he convinces her she is a real and attractive woman. Moments later the sheriff is chasing him out of town, but as luck would have it, not before the arrival of a drought-ending rainstorm. It was a storm that ended an evening of great fun and great theater for both cast and audience.
(The Courier 4.4.04)