The Rainmaker ‘crisp, goofy and good natured’

Lennie MacPherson
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Acting is ‘pitch perfect’ in play at Watermark Theatre

Watermark theatre

In this, the seventh season of the Watermark Theatre, the scope of professionally adapted plays continues to expand with The Rainmaker.

And just as the community of North Rustico has embraced these thespians, don’t you be intimidated by the designer glasses in the audience, either. This is an accessible play. It’s crisp, goofy and good natured.

The story plays out in a farmhouse setting, stripped of ornamentation to post and beam, with the essentials kept neatly on shelves. Nice little treat, too, to see some design sketches from Scott Penner in the program. Another Watermark original score by Michael Doherty sets the tone off the bat.

The script was very much written in the 1950s. And by a man. In this case, that man was N. Rich-ard Nash. At the time of its creation, I suppose he was at an almost romantic remove from the Great Depression, where we meet the Curry family. While the social commentary doesn’t quite translate to today, the rural Dust Bowl americana setting is sweet and innocent more akin to Classic Looney Tunes than, say, Grapes of Wrath. That is not to say that there isn’t perspective on the period or tender moments, particularly as the father expresses his wishes for his daughter, just that it’s a playful comedy, firstly.

Director Jerry Etienne helps the story and dialogue speed along at a nice clip. Movement from the characters is just as snappy, in that golden era Hollywood, purposeful way.

The acting is pitch perfect. Alex Furber is a hoot as the younger brother, Jimmy. He’s loyal and good and a touch naive. He looks up to his older brother, in particular, but has a streak of defiance in him as his confidence builds. Eyebrows raised and ears perked, his proudly declared platitudes are as adorable as they are silly.

The oldest son, Noah, played by returning company member Jonathan Widdifield, runs the family cattle farm. He’s a serious sort, and feels doubly burdened having to deal with the somewhat socially inept family. Like all the men in his clan, he means well, but his righteous opinion can be cutting.

Father, H.C. Curry, is calm, if a bit fanciful. He’s portrayed with much warmth by David Bulger. Though Noah has assumed the head role of their home economy, ultimately, the decision making falls to the eldest Curry. The dust-filled eddies settle a little each time he speaks.

Leah Pritchard is Lizzie. Her brothers and father want the best for her or, rather, want to impose it on her. She’s well read and very capable and lacks confidence, though, with family members, she’s quite fierce. She’s frustrated with their preoccupation of her spinster prospects, but quietly in agreement. Pritchard conveys the highs and lows of her confidence with touching realism.

The drought has been devastating for the welfare of the livestock, and the family is having to make some tough economic decisions. Still, they seem more invested in preventing Lizzie from becoming an old maid. When a con man, aka any number of character monikers, played by Robert Tsonos, welcomes himself into their lives, everyone sees through his ruse immediately. His promises are ridiculous, but they cast their dreamy, foolish hopes on him nonetheless.

A man who Lizzie fancies, named File, is played by Brian Bisson. He is generally polite and quiet, though he gets his back up when people try to push him out of his solitude. And the details of becoming a “widower” before he moved to this town are a bit more obvious than he wants to admit. John Dartt is funny as Sheriff Thomas, a friend and co-law enforcer, hoping to help File find some companionship as well.

It is a privilege, here on P.E.I., to be able to drive in any number of directions and, in the midst of an idyllic rural community, take part in high quality theatre. On this night, it was capped by one of those surreal experiences brought about only by automobile — driving home on a winding rural road, as an impossibly huge perigee moon weaves and peeks coyly through the trees.

At a glance:

If you go

What: The Rainmaker.

Where: Watermark Theatre, North Rustico.

When: Until Aug. 31.

Lennie MacPherson, a Charlottetown-based writer, actor and musician, writes theatre reviews for The Guardian during the summer months. He welcomes feedback at mockmywoods@gmail.com.

Organizations: Watermark Theatre

Geographic location: North Rustico, Hollywood

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