A huge rain cloud resembling a rock that might fall and do some real damage dominates the stage in Andrew Bovell’s moody “When The Rain Stops Falling,” playing through Feb. 14 at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town.
But the characters do more damage to each other than that cloud ever could.
Eighty years, two continents and two families’ worth of secrets, lies and betrayals provide the dramatic substance of this sad piece about loneliness, rain, and fish stew … all presented in a larger context of global climate change and man’s actions that could lead to misery if not the actual extinction of the human species.
Moving geographically between Australia and London and chronologically between 1959 and 2039, the audience needs to be prepared for confusion as the middle-aged Gabriel York (Adrian Alita) muses about a fish that miraculously fell from the sky … all the more strange because “I could never dream of affording such a delicacy – if such a delicacy still existed,” he tells us, and begins to plan the meal he will make of it to share with the son he abandoned more than 20 years earlier. “The past is mystery,” he says, as is much of this show to me.
After that introduction, nine characters stash their umbrellas and partake of fish stew as they come and go, playing out snippets of their lives in Australia’s Alice Springs or the Australian Coorong – or in London.
There’s plenty of manmade sorrow to go around: an abducted child and an abandoned one; an adult who goes out for a walk, never to return; a woman who marries the “wrong” man; a husband and father who finally admits he has molested young boys.
There’s also recurrent talk about flooding in Bangladesh. Saturn is evoked: both the planet and the Roman god who devoured his own son. And there’s the climate change that has made fish a rarity.
But mostly, there are characters who have acted in such a way as to make themselves or others unhappy.
This is a difficult play to pull off, what with time shifts and name similarities: two women playing Gabrielle (Rachael VanWormer as the younger; Rosina Reynolds as the elder); two playing different Gabriels (Alita and Josh Odsess-Rubin), and two (Beth Gallagher and Cristina Soria) as the younger and elder Elizabeth.
Director Rob Lutfy has a sterling cast, making this watchable if not clear. The simple staging, lighting and costumes give a chilly feel and a sense of devastating loss to the goings-on.
“When The Rain Stops Falling” is for adventurous theatergoers who can relax and let the dramatic points wash over them while not worrying about the chronological anomalies.
But let’s face it, the heavy-handed rain metaphor doesn’t do the play any favors, nor do countless iterations of sitting down to fish stew or comments about flooding in Bangladesh.
“When The Rain Stops Falling” plays through February 14, 2016 at Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs St. in Old Town.
Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm
Tickets: (619) 337-1525 or www.cygnettheatre.com