Sunday, March 28, 2010



When the Rain Stops Falling

A play by Andrew Bovell

Directed by David Cromer

Starring Kate Blumberg, Victoria Clark, Mary Beth Hurt, Rod McLachlan, Susan Pourfar, Will Rogers, Michael Siberry, Richard Topol, Henry Vick

Performances through April 18, 2010

Mitzi Newhouse Theater

150 West 65th Street

Andrew Bovell is a playwright whose mania for time and narrative scrambling reaches its apogee—or nadir—in When the Rain Stops Falling, an apocalyptic play covering the years 1959-2038 in Australia and England, as three generations of two families try and make sense out of their lives and of the world—which is coming to end, seemingly, sooner than we think.

When the Rain Stops Falling begins with a huge rainstorm and ends with a character saying that “the rain has stopped.” In between, we get fragmented scenes from nine people’s lives played out over 80 years by a talented cast portraying characters who are “younger” and “older” (there are two of these, both female) and seven others who revolve around those two younger and two older women. Along with this nonet, there’s an edible fish that’s fallen out of the sky during the storm, an omen of sorts (but of what?).

In theory, Bovell’s strategy is estimable; as it plays out at the Newhouse, however, it’s much less than the sum of its parts. Director David Cromer problematically attempts to convey the breadth of Bovell’s epic on the tiny stage, and tries to compensate with such shopworn devices as turntable sets, spare furnishings, and visualizations of the many repetitions that Bovell’s script abounds in, like the fish soup that’s continually eaten or the remarks about the flooding in Bangladesh (which is, apparently, worse than anywhere else on earth).

Again and again, Cromer bumps up against Bovell’s script, which concerns itself so much with narrative repetitions and obvious ironies that any life or emotion that inadvertently squeezes through is insufficient. Suspending disbelief is mandatory for viewers of When the Rain Stops Falling, especially when watching how strapping young Gabriel Law, making his way through the outback far from his London home, meets and falls in love with charming, lonely Gabrielle York.

Various improbabilities ensue during their relationship and afterwards, and their son Gabriel York becomes the linchpin upon which the play’s story and character strands are brought together, literally: in the final scene, Gabriel Y. opens a suitcase that contains several items of import that aid us in figuring out who’s who and what’s what, like an empty urn that once held his father Gabriel L.’s ashes.

Even though Cromer’s schematic directing doesn’t help, there are tremendous performances from the entire cast, which makes Rain less of a muddy slog than it could have been. Standouts are Victoria Clark as the older Gabrielle York, who remains dignified even while eating her dead husband’s ashes, and Mary Beth Hurt (Gabriel L.’s mother, the older Elizabeth Law) and Susan Pourfar (the younger Gabrielle York), who turn an unwanted telephone call into the play’s strongest scene.

This once, all of the gimmicks in the script and direction fall away and we are left with two superb actresses getting to the heart of the matter, something which happens far less infrequently than the endless ladling of fish soup.

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