By Charlene Baldridge
The curtain-time cloudburst on Saturday, Jan. 23, was exceptionally fitting. Just as patrons alighted from their automobiles at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town, considerable rain poured from the heavens.
It was so fitting an introduction to the evening, in fact, that one who had foreknowledge expected the odd, extinct fish to fall from the sky. That is exactly what happens on page one of Andrew Bovell’s “When the Rain Stops Falling.”
The miraculous fish falls at the feet of Gabriel York (Adrian Alita), a reclusive, middle-aged resident of Alice Springs in Australia. He’s received a phone call from Andrew, the 28-year-old son he abandoned in London when the child was 7. Andrew, a grown man, who appears in the play’s last scene, has come to find answers to family mysteries, through which we have been guided since the fish fell from the sky. In the process, Andrew delivers relics to Gabriel, hoping, as all sons do, to find out who he is from his father.
Primary in the unfolding of the awesome tale is the consummated love affair between Gabriel Law (Josh Odsess-Rubin) and Gabrielle York (Rachael VanWormer), who met at a roadhouse in Australia’s Coorong, and fell in love while tracing the footsteps of Gabriel’s father, Henry (also Adrian Alita), who had a abandoned his son in childhood and fled to Australia. We meet Tom (Tom Stephenson), the man who saved and devoted his life to Gabrielle and raised her son. Two men do the abandoning. Their sons seek them and the reasons why; but the women who love them are not inconsiderable in their devotion and determination not to divulge secrets.
The playwright’s original, 2008 Australian production, which Director/Associate Artistic Director Rob Lutfy follows, has a seven-person company. Two of the women play younger and older versions of themselves: Gabrielle York is played by Rachael VanWormer and Rosina Reynolds; and Elizabeth Law, wife of Henry, the original abandoner and Gabriel Law’s mother, is portrayed by Beth Gallagher and Cristina Soria. To add to the play’s fascination and complexity, Alita and Odess-Rubin both play grandsons and their own grandfathers.
After being hit by at least three surprises that no self-respecting critic or theater lover would divulge, the joy is in pondering of minutiae – something I expect to go on doing for weeks and months.
Cygnet must be applauded for having the guts and resources to tackle this powerful and complex work that requires absolutely top work of everyone. Lutfy elicits the very best whether the actor is new to Cygnet or a debutant.
Our theaters of late are rife with plays that travel through time. “When the Rain Stops Falling” tops them all for beauty of language, clarity of purpose, complexity, casting and direction. The simple and unified design work is a great asset as well. Junghan Han is scenic designer; Chris Rynne, lighting designer; Jeanne Reith, costume designer, Kevin Anthenill, sound designer/composer; Syd Stevens, props designer; and Peter Herman, wig/makeup designer. Other contributors are dialect coach Vanessa Dinning and movement director Michael Mizerany.
In addition to the selection of the play, the addition of Lutfy to Cygnet’s staff last year is a real and present blessing and portends well for the company’s increasingly splendid programming.
—Charlene Baldridge has been writing about the arts since 1979. Follow her blog at charlenebaldridge.com or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.