The Rainmaker: A Cloudburst!; Merrily We Roll Along… Upcoming Treats; The International Golden Bore Awards

by Buzzin' Lee Hartgrave on November 2, 2007

THE RAINMAKER

It’s dusty and it’s hot in this unnamed farm community in the 1930’s. ‘The Rainmaker’ is over 40 years old and has had several revivals and two movies. The most current movie was the 1956 version starting Burt Lancaster and Katherine Hepburn. There also was the musical version ‘110 In The Shade’.

In this A.C.T. revival, Director Mark Rucker has carved out of the dust, a sensitive and stinging production that swirls around you like a dust storm. You can almost see the tumbleweeds flying past the window. ‘The Rainmaker’ is about hope and dreams. It was written by N. Richard Nash long before the recent book “The Secret” – which is a book about if you want it – say it loud and it will happen. This also is the premise of Nash’s play.

The Curry family has a farm in this drought region. There is Dad, his Daughter Lizzie and two Sons. As the temperature rises – so do the tempers of the family. Noah, the older son is basically in charge of keeping the books and making sure that the farm makes money. They argue back and forth in this family, especially the two brothers, Noah and Jim. Noah constantly calls his younger brother dumb, but Jim is smarter than he can imagine.

Through all of this family haranguing is “Dad” who keeps them from going too far. Lizzie, the daughter, is supposed to be a homely girl that can’t seem to get a man interested in her. Noah tells her that she should give up, that no one wants to marry a homely girl like her. Actually he says it in harsher words. They invite a Deputy Sheriff to come over for dinner. Lizzie cooks up a great dinner, but File, the Deputy is a no show. She is understandably hurt.

Rene Augesen plays the role of Lizzie. However, Augesen is just too beautiful to look homely. She reminded me of Olivia De’Haviland in “The Heiress”. She was Hollywood’s idea of homely. Just tying your hair in a bun in the back does not always make you look shabby.

After this embarrassing attempt to get the deputy Sheriff interested in Lizzie, a stranger bursts through the door and announces that he noticed cattle dying on the land. “You need Rain. A lot of it”, he says. He is a Rainmaker, he tells the family. Noah doesn’t falls for it and neither does Lizzie at first. Dad is a chance taker, and agrees to pay the Rainmaker a Hundred Bucks. Young Jim is on the side of the Rainmaker also.

So begins an interesting journey in the mercurial world of doubts, dreams and hope. The stranger has a name “Starbuck”, who will now begin to show the family ‘New ways to dream’. Alex Morf (Jim Curry) enchants us with terrific boyish facial expressions and gestures. He is still a boy – but ends up being his own man. At least the ‘Rainmaker’ has freed him from being forever in Noah’s Shadow. If we could just bottle Morf’s energy and charisma and sell it on ebay – we’d be rich. Remember his name – cause he’s gonna go places. Hallelujah!

Geordie Johnson (Bill Starbuck) is sizzling. He jumps around the stage with enormous energy. He shakes his rain stick, jumps up on the furniture and gets the family to join in the ritual of “Rainmaking”. Jim beats the drum; Dad paints an arrow pointing toward the farm to direct the rain to this spot. Johnson’s acting is exhilarating and magical. His performance is very moving. I might add also, that he is the only one who takes off his shirt during this heat wave. Everyone else is wearing flannel shirts (not rolled up) and one even has on wool pants. Of course, it was the 30’s – and they were more circumspect then.

Rene Augesen’s (Lizzie) performance will sweep you off your feet as the “Rainmaker” convinces her that she is not homely – but that she is beautiful. As she blossoms on the stage – our faith is restored. There IS magic out there. You just have to listen.

Rounding up this great cast is Anthony Fusco (as File, the Deputy Sheriff). Rod Gnapp, as Sheriff Thomas. Stephen Barker Turner (Noah) is exceptional and powerful. Every emotion rings true. Jack Willis (Dad) is the rock. His excellent portrayal of the wise, all knowing Dad was selfless and heartwarming. The entire cast gave searing performances.

AT A.C.T. THEATER ON GEARY

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! –trademarked- (highest rating)

MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG

It played at The Berkeley Rep not too long ago, and now “Passing Strange” will move from the Public Theater to Broadway in 2008. Hmmm, well it wasn’t my cup of tea in Berkeley – so I think I’ll Pass.

Clay Aiken (American Idol) is headed for Broadway in “Spamalot”. And it had to happen sooner or later…a Revival of “Godspell” is headed for Broadway in Summer of 2008. Oh good, Nudity will be back in style.

Movie star Lawrence Fishburne will Star on Broadway in ‘Thurgood’. In London – The # One best seller on the stage is still “The Phantom of the Opera”.

“Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” (Movie) is directed by long time Director Sidney Lumet. In the film Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) and Ethan Hawke star in this family crime drama. At a press conference Lumet boasted, “it’s masterfully plotted.” With Hoffman in it – I will find something to like about it, I’m sure.

I know they are a long way off, but the process of the Oscars starts way ahead – just like the political elections. Only five films will get nominated in the Best Foreign Film Category, but 63 countries have already sent in entries to be considered for the 80th Academy Awards. Here are a couple of front-runners. Bayona’s vivid horror pic, The Orphanage (Spain)…The animated ‘Persepolis’ (France) and the Romanian Abortion drama – ‘4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

At the Berkeley Rep, 8pm on Thursday, Nov. 8 there will be a party after the viewing of Argonautika. The party will continue late into the night for the LGBT community. The event is always wildly popular. This one features gourmet hors d’oeuvres from Venus Restaurant, dance music from a cutting-edge DJ, beautiful bouquets from Darling Flower Shop, and complimentary drinks from Raymond Vineyards and Triple rock Brewery. Sounds terrific. Have fun – but just don’t eat the flowers. The play ‘Argonautika is based on “The Voyage of Jason and the Argonauts” – and it’s the latest hit from the creator of Metamorphoses and The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. Zimmerman joins Jason on a journey of love and loss, hubris and honor, danger and adventure. Not to mention the giants, Kings, nymphs, centaurs, sea monsters and a heartsick sorceress. Boy, Jason sure is busy.


Britney in the Zone.

THE INTERNATIONAL ‘GOLDEN BORE’ AWARDS!
(A now and then column)

Singer Britney Spears. – The Most Boring!
Actress Lindsey Lohan. – The Next Boring!
Actor Gavin Newsom – Terribly Boring, especially when he channels Diane Feinstein with “Having said that.”
Actor Fred Thompson – Celebs think he even Bores himself picking the fuzz out of his navel.
THERE THEY ARE…the most ‘Golden Bores’ in the world – for now.

Send Buzzin your ‘Bore Awards’ candidates. leehartgraveshow@yahoo.com

The Photo of Lee Hartgrave Boy Reporter is by Jim Ferreira – Film Noir & Hollywood Glamour. www.lafterhall.com.

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Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave

Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave is a longtime theater critic in the San Francisco Bay Area. His reviews appear each Friday in Beyond Chron.

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