BWW Reviews: WHEN THE RAIN STOPS FALLING Exquisitely Performed
Andrew Bovell's play, WHEN THE RAIN STOPS FALLING, opens in Alice Springs, Australia in the year 2039. A fish falls from the sky and lands at the feet of Gabriel York. This is unusual because fish are extinct and this one still smells of the sea. It's been raining for days and Gabriel knows something is wrong. Fifty years earlier his grandfather, Henry Law had predicted that fish will fall from the sky heralding a great flood which will end life on earth as we know it.
WHEN THE RAIN STOPS FALLING requires the audience to work and pay close attention in order to grasp the intricate, multi-layered sprawling story that spans four generations and two continents. The tale that unfolds covers a lot of topics: betrayal, abandonment, destruction, aging, forgiveness and, ultimately, love. It is not an easy piece, but it is an engaging work which will grip you as you try to unravel the mysteries. It also is a work of great emotional depth. Jumping back and forth between intimate and epic, the play has been widely acknowledged as one of the greatest Australian plays of the decade, winning Andrew Bovell the Sydney Theatre Award in 2009 for Best New Work. It also was named Best New Play of Year by Time Magazine, and won five 2010 Lucille Lortel Awards.
Director Norman Blumensaadt has done a masterful job of staging this sprawling work with a minimalistic set and delivers some truly inspired and moving moments. His staging highlights the poetry in the piece's patterns as characters from the past and present seem to circle each other unseen to become an audience to their younger selves, as if frozen by regret and sorrow. The set, by Ann Marie Gordon, is an elegant yet simple study in blonde wood furniture. Bill Peeler's lighting design uses color to effectively separate time and location. Lowell Bartholomee's projection work almost becomes a character in and of itself. Even Jeff Miller's sound design works beautifully in aid of the story.
The acting in this production is exquisitely done. Andy Smith does a great job as Gabriel Law, a man who is attempting to resolve the mystery of his father, who disappeared when he was a small child. When his mother Elizabeth, played by the always excellent Katherine Schroeder, refuses to help, he follows the memory of his father to Australia. Schroder once again delivers a riveting performance, as does Alexandra Russo, who plays the same character in her youth. The pain both actresses convey is heart breaking to witness. In Australia, he meets 24-year-old roadhouse attendant Gabrielle York, played by Taylor Flanagan, who bears the trauma of her own tragic past and greatly fears for her future. The older Gabrielle York is played by Paula Gilbert. Again, both actresses are wonderfully believable in their roles. Blumensaadt has done an excellent job in the casting of these two duos.
Henry Law, Gabriel Law's father is played by Scot Friedman in what is the finest performance I have seen him deliver. His conveyance of the character's pain and shame is simply stunning. Gabriel York, the son of Gabriel Law and Gabrielle York is played by Rick Smith, who delivers a couple of monologues quite masterfully.
Rounding out the cast are Porter Gandy as Gabriel York's son Andrew Price and Michael Costilla as Joe Ryan, the husband of Gabrielle York.
Needless to say, there is no shortage of things to see or plots to unravel within Bovell's script, which has easily the most ambitious theme and complex structure in contemporary theater. Through the use of recurring conversations and shared props, he has created a self-reflexive vortex that swirls his individual characters up into an almost-shared consciousness about humanity's capacity to endure suffering. Bovell is big on recurring themes and even recurring bits of dialogue. Throughout the play's span, fish soup is served; characters make jokes about the weather, noting that people are "drowning in Bangladesh;" and across the generations, communication between child and parent is hampered by the secrets of the past.
WHEN THE RAIN STOPS FALLING is a riveting and engaging evening of family drama that I guarantee you will still be discussing and trying to unravel long after you have left the theatre. While not an easy piece, it is an interesting examination of how the past informs the present and how we are all the sum of our past, be it known to us or an unknown mystery.
WHEN THE RAIN STOPS FALLING by Andrew Bovell.
Running time: One Hour, 50 minutes with no intermission.
WHEN THE RAIN STOPS FALLING, produced by Different Stages, at the Vortex, (3823 Manor Rd, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78722) June 26 - July 18, 2015. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm. and Sundays at 7pm. Tickets are Pick your Price: $15, $20, $25, and $30. Reservations: http://www.main.org