Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: THE RAINMAKER at 1st Stage

A warm, funny, touching romp.

Review: THE RAINMAKER at 1st Stage
L-R Jacob Yeh and Tamieka Chavis in
​​​​​the 1st Stage production of The Rainmaker.
Photo by Teresa Castracane.

American literature has a soft spot for con artists, those ruffians who, lacking the skills or inclination to earn an honest living, prosper by using sheer charm and creativity to tell other people what they most want to hear. These rapscallions, despite living by lying, often find themselves in a position to help other characters discover certain truths about themselves. 1st Stage's production of N. Edward Nash's 1954 play The Rainmaker is an enjoyable and entertaining visit with one such miscreant.

The story opens on the struggling, drought-wracked Depression-era midwest farm run by the widowed H.C. Curry (Scott Sedar) and his sons, the acerbic, level-headed Noah (Vince Eisenson) and younger and impulsive Jimmy(Jonathan Del Palmer). The fourth family member, Lizzie(Tamieka Chavis), has recently returned from a trip without having found a suitor, much to the dismay of her father and brothers, who immediately propose to arrange a meeting with deputy sheriff File(Jacob Yeh). Despite her protestations, Lizzie secretly fancies File, but thinks herself too "plain" to ever win him. File is similarly fond of Lizzie, but still reeling from the supposed death of his wife five years prior. (It is eventually revealed that she left him for another man, which he is too ashamed to admit.)

Into this unhappy tableaux comes Bill Starbuck (Matthew Sparacino), a handsome, silver-tongued fellow with his belongings in a knapsack and a proposal: if the Currys pay him $100 and perform a series of bizarre tasks, he will make it rain and end the drought. Over Noah's objections, H.C. and Jimmy agree to hire Starbuck, both out of desperation for any solution to their plight, and also thinking that he might be a potential suitor for Lizzie.

Over the next day, Starbuck woos Lizzie, who, despite her mistrust of him, begins to enjoy his company and, as she puts it, to feel pretty for the first time in her life. Meanwhile, File and the town Sheriff return to the farm, investigating reports of a criminal who has fleeced several other communities and is reported to be heading their way.

Under the direction of Deidra LaWan Starnes, the cast rises to the occasion. Chavis is both affecting and funny as Lizzie. A scene in which she attempts to woo File using stereotypically "feminine" gestures and tones brought sustained laughter from the audience.

Sparacino plays Starbuck with the inflated presence the role demands, putting conviction into his absurd promises. We don't believe him, but we find it easy to see why someone could, or would want to. In his scenes with Lizzie, where he for once flatters someone for reasons other than bilking them out of their money, we see vestiges of a decent man.

Del Palmer is a standout as the boisterous Jimmy, Starbuck's easiest mark. His task is to beat a drum to inspite rain, and he embraces it with hilarious enthusiasm, to the annoyance of the other characters. Like Lizzie, he discovers a newfound personal confidence as a result of the visit.

Innovative set design by Nadir Bey uses shifting walls to transition between the kitchen in the Currys' farmhouse, the Sheriff's office, and the stable tack room where Lizzie and Starbuck have their most meaningful exchange. This is complemented by Minjoo Kim's lighting.

All in all, The Rainmaker is not a masterpiece, but it is a warm, funny, touching romp well worth spending a cold day seeing.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.

The Rainmaker runs at 1st Stage in Tyson's Corner through December 11, 2022. The venue is located at 1524 Spring Hill Road | Tysons, VA.



Review: THE TEMPEST at Round House Theatre // Folger Theatre Photo
It’s clear that a tremendous amount of talent, effort, and care has gone into this telling of The Tempest, and those affiliated certainly deserve high praise. Do yourself a favor and go see this production.

Interview: Theatre Life with Lauren Pekel Photo
Today’s subject Lauren Pekel is currently living her theatre life as the Production Stage Manager for what is easily one of the more technically complex productions running in DC theatre right now. Nightly (with two matinees) at Studio Theatre, Lauren calls over 300 light cues and close to 100 sound cues for People, Places and Things. The show runs through December 11th in Studio Theatre’s recently open new space known as the Victor Shargai Theatre. Did I mention her only view of the stage is through two ten-inch TV screens? Read on to see how that all works.

Student Blog: High School vs. College Theatre Photo
This fall I was cast in my first college production, a play titled The Oregon Trail by Bekah Brunstetter. This was a highly educational and beneficial show process for me and a great start to my college theatre career. As this was the first play I had been a part of since my senior year of high school, I noticed many differences between the rehearsal processes in high school vs. college. 

The “King Of Waltz” Bringing Musical Extravaganza To UBS Arena At Belmont Park Photo
Petaluma’s premier theater company, Cinnabar Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director Nathan Cummings and Executive Director Diane Dragone, is proud to host a “Swingin’ New Years Eve” concert, Saturday December 31st, at 7:30pm.


From This Author - Peter Rouleau

Peter Rouleau is an indie author, college professor, and theater artist who lives in Montgomery County Maryland. His favorite theatrical memories include getting to recite "To Be or Not to Be&... (read more about this author)


Review: THE RAINMAKER at 1st StageReview: THE RAINMAKER at 1st Stage
November 23, 2022

American literature has a soft spot for con artists, those ruffians who, lacking the skills or inclination to earn an honest living, prosper by using sheer charm and creativity to tell other people what they most want to hear. These rapscallions, despite living by lying, often find themselves in a position to help other characters discover certain truths about themselves. 1st Stage's production of N. Edward Nash's 1954 play The Rainmaker is an enjoyable and entertaining visit with one such miscreant.

Review: THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD at Atlas Performing Arts CenterReview: THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD at Atlas Performing Arts Center
November 12, 2022

A lively contemporary rethinking of a classic Irish comedy.