Set on a Depression-era ranch were a family struggles with a seemingly endless drought, The Rainmaker certainly has drama, but despite the circumstances there are also all the elements for a romantic comedy.
Drama, romance and more than a little comedy will be on stage next week when Drayton Entertainment opens its latest production at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse.
Set in a drought-ridden rural town in the West in Depression-era America, the play tells the story of a pivotal hot summer day in the life of spinsterish Lizzie Curry. Lizzie keeps house for her father, H.C., and brothers Noah and Jimmy on the family cattle ranch. She has just returned from a trip to visit pseudo-cousins (all male), 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. A charming conman named Starbuck arrives and promises to bring rain in exchange for $100. His arrival sets off a series of events that sweep the audience along with them.
“Within the family unit, there are these wonderful relationships – the comedy and drama are often intertwined,” says Jackie Mustakas, who plays Lizzie.
Written in the 1950s – N. Richard Nash’s teleplay opened to acclaim on Broadway in 1954 – and set at the time of the Depression, the story nonetheless resonates with audiences today, having been the subject of a couple of revivals in the past couple of decades alone.
“It’s about honesty and truth. Love and hope – especially about hope and redemption,” she says. “It’s a great story with a great message – those never get old.”
Though the idea of a woman, especially a younger one, being labelled a spinster may not be what it once was, Lizzie’s story is really about learning to believe in herself in contrast to expectations and what she may have been told, adds Mustakas.
“Until you learn to believe in yourself, no one else is going to believe in you.”
And learn to believe in herself is exactly what Lizzie does. And the audience is along for the journey, as it is with all of the characters, who are all well-written and dealing with emotions and situations that we still struggle with today, says Mustakas.
“It is quite an emotional rollercoaster from the start until the end.”
The theme revolves around the need for faith in oneself and others. To that end, the entire Curry family is eventually won over by the charismatic Starbuck such that when the rain does come, it’s not the most important happening out at the ranch. In the end, it’s all about the family relationships.
Along with Mustakas’ Lizzie, the cast includes Paul McQuillan as Bill Starbuck, the smooth talking “rainmaker” who arrives in town with big promises. McQuillan has appeared in many Drayton Entertainment productions including Guys and Dolls, Brigadoon and Blood Brothers, among others. Mustakas and McQuillan have appeared together previously in several productions – most recently in The Affections of May.
Oliver Becker makes his Drayton Entertainment debut as patriarch H.C. Curry, the single father with a big imagination. In addition to his considerable stage work, Becker has appeared on film and TV in the likes of Saving Hope, Rookie Blues, Bitten, Lost Girl and The Girlfriend Experience.
Mike Shara also makes his Drayton Entertainment debut as the oldest brother, Noah, who really runs the ranch, but never feels he gets any credit, resulting in some family tension. Among his stage experience, Shara has appeared in many Stratford Festival productions including Macbeth, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Hamlet. Gregory Pember is the younger more idealistic brother Jimmy, who is not quite as hardworking as his sibling. Pember appeared as one of the gangsters in The Drowsy Chaperone earlier this season; audiences may also recognize him from Rock of Ages and Beauty and the Beast last fall.
Thom Marriott is Sheriff Thomas, with Jeffrey Wetsch as Deputy File. Marriott has appeared in productions all across North America including The Philadelphia Story for Theatre Calgary and Saint Joan for Chicago Shakespeare Theater, among others. Audiences may recognize Wetsch from his roles in Deathtrap and Tuesdays with Morrie with Drayton Entertainment, among many other roles at theatres across the country. Both Marriott and Wetsch appeared in last season’s production of Death of a Salesman.
“It’s apparent how much these people care about each other, but they just have a hard time saying it,” says Mustakas of the family at the centre of the story.
The Drayton Entertainment production of The Rainmaker runs through July 7 at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. Tickets are $46 for adults; $27 for youth under 20 years of age, available at the theatre, online at www.draytonentertainment.com or by calling the box office at (519) 747-7788, toll free at 1-855-drayton (372-9866).