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A CurtainUp Review
When the Rain Stops Falling

It's terrible but you reach a time in your life when you realize that you have very little to say to your children. I had very little to say to Gabriel. Of course having nothing to say is just another way of having so much to say that you dare not begin..— Elizabeth, whose comment is turned on its head by Gabriel about children not having anything to say to parents.
When the Rain Stops Falling
Mary Beth Hurt
(Photo: Charles T. Erickson)
The failure of mother, fathers and children to find the words to communicate with each other is at the heart of Andrew Bovell's time-hopping (between 1959 and 2039) 80-year family saga of lost connections and melancholy loneliness involving disappearing fathers, embittered mothers, confused children. Bovell has stuffed this timeless, time spanning story of two families linked by a tragic secret event with plenty of other themes to ponder — not the least of which includes the symbolism of Saturn as a planetary and human devourer.

But the playwright doesn't make it easy to take it all in, and to keep what's happening when and to whom sorted out. A close look at the family tree included in the program will be helpful. What would have helped even more would have been for costume designer Clint Ramos to link the younger and older versions of characters played by different actors, which. might have made watching this play less like navigating a maze.

However, if you hang in there (which the lack of an intermission insures), the convoluted plot with its often heavy-handed devices will sort itself out. What begins as a fishy story (a big fish plops down in the midst of a torrential rain storm, lots of fish soup is dished up) does end up with a clarifying Last Supper (yes, another symbolic touch and so the capitalization).

The play is intelligent and does draw you into its melancholy dual landscape (London and Australia). Lincoln Center has an audience receptive to challenging theater, but Bovell tests their open-mindedness with his over reliance on obviously repeated phrases ("People drowning in Bangladesh") and coincidences (especially those pertaining to Gabriel Law and Gabrielle Law's story), and self indulgenly drawn out action (like the fish soup scenes).

What rescues the American premiere of When the Rain Stops from a too soggy landing is David Cromer's beautiful and strong on atmosphere and emotion staging. David Korins' two rotating platforms work beautifully in the three-sided thrust theater and when they at one point revolve in slow motion, serve as a chilling metaphor of the ground shifting beneath its seemingly unaware inhabitants. The gray fabric cloth draped above the entire theater is rather ugly but it does evoke the dark clouds drooping and overloaded with more planet consuming water. Tyler Micoleau and Fitz Patton create the sights and sounds of a mother of all stage rainstorms. But what most compensates for the script's deficiencies are the understated yet emotionally strong performances of the actors. Michael Siberry starts things off with a lengthy and extremely forceful monologue. He also gets the last word which is mercifully much shorter. Victoria Clark and Mary Beth Hurt are enormously moving as the unhappy, disappointed older York and Law women. However, everyone of the nine cast members give superior performances.

As it's not easy to avoid getting a bit lost in Mr. Bovell's dramatic and idea stuffed puzzle, it's even harder to sum it up without giving away its core secrets. Lizzie Loveridge's review of the London production doesn't do so, but it does give more plot and character details. To read it go here

When the Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell
Directed by David Cromer
Cast: Kate Blumberg (Younger Elizabeth Law), Victoria Clark (Older Gabrielle York), Mary Beth Hurt (Older Elizabeth Law), Rod McLachlan (Joe Ryan), Susan Pourfar (Younger Gabrielle York), Will Rogers (Gabriel Law), Michael Siberry (Gabriel York), Richard Topol (Henry Law) and Henry Vick (Andrew Price). Sets: David Korins
Costumes: Clint Ramos
Lighting: Tyler Micoleau
Sound: Fitz Patton
Music: Josh Schmidt
Stage manager: Richard A. Hodge
Running Time: Approx. 1 hour and 50 minutes, no intermission
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, Lincoln Center; (212) 239-6200.
From 2/11/10; opening 3/08/10; closing 4/18/10.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer 3/10/10
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