In the words of H.C. (Brian Hoeffling ’12), “For once in your life, get carried away! It won’t hurt you, not a bit!”
Sometimes, the loneliness we all inevitably feel in our love lives here at Yale becomes so asphyxiating that we withdraw from love and view chance as a deadly contagion. The cast of “The Rainmaker,” despite the play’s somewhat predictable plotline, delivers a brilliant performance that affords us a much-needed two-hour respite, an avenue to re-examine the way we relate to potential lovers.
[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”542″ ]
Directed by Irene Casey ’14, “The Rainmaker” follows the Curry family during one unbearably hot day in the rural West during the Great Depression. The boldly independent Lizzie (Allison Collins ’11) has just returned from a failed attempt to attract a husband, much to the consternation of her family — her father H.C. and her brothers, the rigid Noah (Peter Kaufman ’12) and the innocently affable Jim (Charlie Kelly ’14). As a last-ditch effort, H.C. approaches File (Spencer Klavan ’13), the scandalously divorced sheriff’s deputy, to invite him to supper in an attempt to pique his interest in Lizzie.
Meanwhile, livestock begin to die of dehydration as a drought (a fitting reflection of Lizzie’s failed romantic endeavors) plagues the Curry homestead. The mysterious Rainmaker (Jacob Backer ’14), who more closely resembles a neon-clad Elvis impersonator than anything one would expect in the rural West, arrives and promises that he will bring rain to the farm, for a fee. As the play progresses, the characters struggle to come to grips with their own identities.
Lizzie’s pervasive self-doubt mirrors the fear of rejection we all harbor as we navigate romantic relationships in a society with austere and sometimes vicious rules. From her first heavily twanged syllable, Collins’ stunning performance instantly endears her to the audience, charming us with her mesmerizing defiance, her struggle against gender barriers, and her beleaguered and wavering belief in her own worth as a woman.
Lizzie’s seriousness is balanced by Kelly’s performance as Jim, whose effortless hilarity carries the play’s tensest moments and whose boisterous warmth delivers some of the play’s most memorable lines. Jim’s obliviousness makes him immune to the apprehension and uncertainty that shackle the rest of his family. Kelly’s humor alone is worth the trip to the theater.
Although the rest of the ensemble performs competently, these two fantastic actors outshine the rest. Backer is slightly disappointing as the Rainmaker, whose over-the-top delivery occasionally lacks the difficult authenticity the role requires — a difficulty reinforced by his inconsistent Southern accent.
Although most of the actors’ accents are acceptable, they often alternate between being oppressively heavy, too sharply twangy and occasionally nonexistent. But once you move beyond that (and non-Southerners will likely be convinced somewhat quickly), the acting, especially from Collins and Kelly, should prove a more than sufficient antidote.
Another misfire is the modern transition music between scenes. Although the music itself is wonderful if you’re into indie pop, its anachronistic presence unsatisfactorily breaks the fourth wall, dragging the viewer from the 1930s into the present at the conclusion of every scene.
In short, nothing will vindicate or invigorate you more this weekend than a two-hour séance with the inspiring Lizzie Curry. The play’s message — to forget your own fears and take a chance for the sake of love — is a maxim from which we can all draw parallels in our own lives. If you’ve ever looked in the mirror and seen staring back someone destined for loneliness, if you’ve ever doubted your own identity, if you’ve ever thought that the fickleness of luck will perpetually doom you to heartache — see “The Rainmaker,” and think again.