Ron Gilbert reviews The Rainmaker a theatrical production


Last night at the Edgemar Center of the Arts theatre,director Jack Heller rekindled my love of theatre and everyone in the audience had a similar response to the production of N.Richard Nash’s play “The Rainmaker”. Even before the play began we were all blown away by the setting of the play created by Christopher Stone and Marine Walton which would be equivalent to a Broadway production, complemented by the original musical score by composer Noah Calvin. The production was introduced by famed director Henry Jaglom who introduced iconic director Randal Kleiser (Grease) and you knew from just that it was going to be a special night. Prior to the stage lights coming on (Noah)David Garver’s presence in the tack room on stage established the period (1937) of the play on a mid-western drought-ridden ranch in the Depression era America.
As the play opened you immediately felt a sense of family differences when dad Stephen Howard(H.C. Curry) and son Benjamin Chamberlain(Jim Curry) along with brother David Garver(Noah) spoke their dialogue which centered mainly on sister Tanna Frederick(Lizzie Curry) When Lizzie enters you immediately felt the family friction intensify. Lizzie had just returned from a trip to visit pseudo-cousins (all male), which was undertaken with the failed expectation that she would find a husband. As their farm languishes under the devastating drought, Lizzie's family worries about her marriage prospects more than about their dying cattle. Tanna’s characterization of Lizzie had you right from the beginning. Here was this plain looking and potential old maid and to see Tanna as Lizzie allowed me to immediately forget her 2 star predecessors in this role, actresses Geraldine Page (Theatre) and Katherine Hepburn (Film).
When charming confidence man (Starbuck) arrives and promises to bring rain in exchange for $100. His arrival sets off a series of events which enable Lizzie to see herself in a new light.
Director Jack Heller has done an amazing task in assembling this talented cast of actors which also included Robert Standley (Bill Starbuck)Ralph Guzzo(Sheriff Thomas) and Scott Roberts (Deputy File) who contribute to raise the level of theatre to a production which is at the top level in the theatre scene in Los Angeles.
Robert Standley’s bursting entrance in the play immediately establishes his character and his charm along with his theatrical and acting skills enhance this. Robert has earned critical acclaim across America as Starbuck in the National tour of The Rainmaker. His chemistry with Tanna when they are first in opposition and later on in an intimate scene
touches you emotionally and your heart may skip a beat. These 2 very talented actors allow to see what play acting is all about. Late actors Darren McGavin and Burt Lancaster who portrayed Starbuck were watching from above and smiling
and may have been jealous. Director Jack Heller has made this production unique by inserting a comedic side which I have never ever seen before and the laughter it provoked from the audience proven him right in this choice.
The thunderous applause and standing ovations of the audience was the final praise on this very delicious production which would have made playwright N. Richard Nash proud.
The play was produced by Henry Jaglom and TheRainbow Theatre Company in Association with Edgemar Center for the Arts and produced by Alexandra Guarnieri.
2437 Main Street, Santa Monica, Ca 90405 or call 310 392-7327

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