If you have not seen the movie with Katharine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster, all the betterI won't give away the whole plot, just a little of the exposition. The setting is a ranch and small town in Texas during a hot, very dry summer. Despite the fact that calves are wasting away, the main concern of the Curry family is what is going to become of its sole female member Lizzie, who is in a drought of her owna dearth of suitors. Will they ever be able to get her married off? The problem is not only that she is not very pretty (she's "plain," as one of her brothers tells her umpteen times), but that she's lacking in the social graces of the time and that she's intelligent and isn't savvy enough to hide it. The fact that she knows where Madagascar isopposite Mozambiquemakes her in effect unmarriageable.
This sounds so 1950s, but the play is not as dated as you might think. I thought that Lizzie's short monologuein which she envisions her future as the maiden aunt, taking gifts to her nieces and nephews that they forget to thank her for, and being told by a sister-in-law that maybe she's been there long enough and isn't it about time for her to goresonates just as much now as ever.
The Rainmaker reminds me of the contemporaneous William Inge plays Picnic and Bus Stop. All three have rural settings, a handsome stranger shows up, sparks fly between him and the heroine, and the suspense lies in will she run off with him or not. A mini-genre of the early Eisenhower administration, maybe. The one additional bit of suspense, and a source of symbolism in this play, is whether or not it will rainas you might guess from the title.
This production is well directed and very well cast by Daryl Streeter. The set is perfectly appointed by Bob Byers and the lighting by Matt Naegeli is fine too. Costumes by Judy Buehler are fitting for when the play was written, but I wasn't sure if it was supposed to take place then or in the 1930s, since there is a picture of FDR on the wall and one of the brothers talks about the thrill of getting a car to go up to forty.
The role of Lizzie is played by Jennifer Lloyd-Cary, who maybe is not as "plain" as they say in the play, but who does a good job of expressing social awkwardness and disappointment at first, and then developing as the play progresses. Kenneth Bennington is excellent as her father, who doesn't pass up any opportunity to secure his daughter's future happiness. Richard Boehler as the deputy sheriff who is a potential mate for Lizzie plays his role appropriately by-the-book. Steve Suttle has a small role as the sheriff, and is totally believable.
The other three members of the cast are the hunkiest trio of guys I have seen on one stage in a long time. J. Ryan Montenery is the handsome stranger, Starbuck, and you can see why anybody would let him just walk in from out of the blue and sit down to supper. Nicholas Fleming plays Noah, the no-nonsense brother, and TJ Williams is Jim, the not-so-smart but personality-plus brother with absolutely perfect '50s hair.
N. Richard Nash was pretty prolific, but this is the only play of his that seems not to have been forgotten. I'm glad the Adobe decided to revive it and give it such a fine staging.
The Rainmaker is being performed at the Adobe Theater, 9813 Fourth Street NW in Albuquerque, through May 20, 2012. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 2:00. Tickets $15 general, $13 for seniors and students. Reservations at 898-9222 or adobetheater.org.