When the Rain
An engrossing, revelatory ‘Rain’
|Circle Theatre presents|
|When the Rain Stops Falling|
Review by Joy Campbell
For the past 27 years, Circle Theatre has called the western suburbs its home. It has now moved to Chicago, and for its inaugural production has remounted When The Rain Stops Falling, bringing back the original cast from its previous production. Rain is an ambitious work; not only is the nine-member cast sizeable, the script is complicated and at times obtuse, although ultimately very satisfying.
The action primarily follows the paths of two protagonists: British Gabriel (Luke Daigle) and Australian Gabrielle (Catherine Price-Griffin/Anita Hoffman) — their names are pronounced identically — in the context of the four generations of their families. The story takes place from 1959 to 2039, in London and in various locales in Australia. We move back and forth not only between places but also between times; the script is positively Jungian in its use of synchronicity and allowing us to “remember” the future. We see characters in the past and present (several characters are played by two actors, as older and younger), sometimes simultaneously on stage. Lines are repeated by various characters at various places and points in time. Like a jigsaw puzzle, things are confusing and hard to put together at first, but as each scene reveals more about people and events, we begin to experience delicious “aha!” moments as a whole picture finally forms. Our omniscient perspective also allows us a deeper insight into characters that makes their misunderstandings of one another more poignant.
While this device may be more of a challenge than a linear story, it is far more engrossing (the playbill helpfully provides the family tree). We see Gabriel talking with his tired older mother (Mary Redmon), who lives alone and drinks too much, and at the same time see her younger self (Katherine Keberlein), a vivacious woman with a brilliant, inquisitive mind who reads French philosophy, loves her husband (Luke Renn), and whose unexpected pregnancy thrusts her into a suffocatingly isolating and tedious motherhood. When Gabriel’s father leaves and never sends word, his disappearance haunts Gabriel until he discovers clues to following his father’s trail to Australia and Uluru (Ayers Rock).
In the coastal Koorong of Australia, Gabrielle (Catherine Price-Griffin) is a young woman running a roadhouse, having been orphaned years earlier by suicidal parents following the disappearance of her brother when he was a child. When Gabriel arrives, synchronicity segues into causality, and we watch young Gabrielle and older Gabrielle (Anita Hoffman) as their story lines converge.
Throughout the show, rainfall, fish soup, and even fish falling from the sky are recurring themes, although what they signify, beyond being synchronous threads throughout all of the stories and times, is unclear to me. I wanted to see the deeper meaning in it, but am satisfied with the sense of parallelism it creates.
I do have one small issue with the story line: there is a central connection between Gabriel and Gabrielle that the playwright apparently felt needed to be pointed out by having a character connect the dots out loud. This felt forced; I didn’t buy that the character would necessarily make the connection, and it seemed an obvious device to ensure that the audience got it, although there is plenty to let us figure this out on our own. That said, it was a minor story flaw.
What I found more jarring is the use of volume to underscore some of the more emotionally charged scenes, which on their own are heavy enough. In particular, a scene on Uluru where Gabriel’s father stands in the past while Gabriel stands beside him in a future some 20 years’ distant, using raised voices to poor effect. The father’s sadness and sense of loss becomes obscured in shouting, when a quiet intensity could be so much more effective, and what could be a beautiful, moving scene is uncomfortably melodramatic.
The lack of chemistry between Gabriel and Gabrielle is also an issue. Daigle and Price-Griffin come across more as pals rather than projecting the intensity and passion of first love. In the scenes between Daigle and Mary Redmond, who plays his mother when older, Redmond does a superb job, but Daigle doesn’t convince us that he’s had years –even uneasy ones—with his mother. In a story about personal connection, this is disappointing.
In addition to Redmond, there are other standouts in the show. As the older Gabrielle, Anita Hoffman is honest and natural as a resolute survivor stamped indelibly by past tragedy while facing encroaching dementia. Noah Sullivan, as her husband Joe, is a sweet, solid, simple man whose monologue of their first encounter is beautiful for all of its sadness. The scenes between them are magical, and here we see true chemistry. The rest of the performances are solid and enjoyable, and compensate for the other shortcomings.
When The Rain Stops Falling is not always easy to follow, and makes demands of its audience, but it also rewards us well for our patience. Its intellectual challenge and refusal to be predictable are what I most enjoyed. If you likewise enjoy being intellectually engaged, you will find this a very entertaining and surprisingly daring piece.
When the Rain Stops Falling continues through February 4th at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays 2:30pm. Tickets are $15-$32, and are available by phone (773-404-7336) or online through Tix.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at Circle-Theatre.org. (Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes, no intermission)
Luke Daigle (Gabriel Law), Catherine Price-Griffin (Gabrielle York – younger); Anita Hoffman (Gabrielle York – older); Luke Renn (Henry Law); Katherine Keberlein (Elizabeth Law –younger); Mary Redmon (Elizabeth Law – older); Noah Sullivan (Joe Ryan); Ron Quade (Gabriel York); Nicholas Roy Caesar (Andrew Price); Patrick Cameron, Clare Cooney, Nancy Greco, Gregory Payne (understudies)
behind the scenes
John Gawlik (director), Bob Knuth (scenic design), Patti Roeder (costume design), Gary C. Echelmeyer (lighting design), Peter Storms (original incidental music and sound design), Kevin Bellie (projections design), Rebecca Miles-Steiner (props), Eva Breneman (dialect coach), Adele Powers (stage manager), Nicole Malmquist (associate lighting director), Nyk Sutter (production coordinator)