There's some poetic justice that this production of Rain was in a theatre located in the same building as the Mission for the Coming Days Church and Joe's Tattoo parlor. This kind of conflict is at the center of the play, and it shows that, while this melodrama from the 1920s is dated in many aspects, it can be remarkably current.
Plays are rarely built according to classic three-act structure anymore - with setup, conflict, and resolution each awarded its own act. This leads to lots of talk, and a pacing quite different from the current jump-cut, film-influenced style. And since the characters sitting out a possible shipboard cholera outbreak during the rainy season in Joe Horn's store/hotel/restaurant in Pago Pago fall squarely into types, much will depend on the quality of actor filling each role.
Sadie Thompson is a dynamite role, reportedly played to the hilt by stage stars like Jeanne Eagles, and was used by the young Joan Crawford to prove she had talent as an actress. In this instance, Lissa Moira has either decided-or been directed (by Ted Mornel) to play-Sadie as a cross between Mae West and Sally Kirkland. It's an interesting choice, but it was (a) almost totally out of the time period, and (b) almost completely unsuccessful. Moira used a slow, unnatural speech pattern, and as a result Sadie was annoying and gratingly artificial. Sadie is, as the euphemism has it, a good-time girl - and many other things besides - but in order to make sense of the play she must obtain a modicum of the audience's sympathy. "She's full of life!" the ship's quartermaster (Ron Leir) gushes. Well, she's certainly full of something.
Yet this Rain was not a total washout (ouch!) As the play's voices of reason, Richard A. O'Brien and Anne-Marie Karash were exemplary and dignified as their characters try to make sense of the situation they find themselves in; as the Reverend Davidson, the moralistic missionary who feels it his duty to convert Sadie to the path of righteousness, Neil Levine became strong and convincing as he attempted to influence her; Ivy Purdy as his wife clearly portrayed the passion for salvation as the flip side of the passion for sex - she was nearly as excited describing depravity as she was disapproving; Jushi was a delight as Joe Horn (Dennis Horvitz)'s heavily pregnant native wife. Horvitz broadly overacted, but he seemed to be enjoying himself.
There were some good directorial touches, such as when Sadie and some Marines partied in her room upstage, while downstage there was a discussion of human nature and the origins of disease. Sadie also stayed on stage between Acts I and II to change her clothes, dance to gramophone music, and continue boozing. The sound effects of rain were very effective, and the set (by Ruth Muzio) was purposely as seedy as Horn's place might really be. Costumes (uncredited) were true to the characters, and lighting (Jennifer Brainsky) was basic, and adequate.
While Sadie's Act II confrontation with Davidson was loud but
passionless, Moira's best moment came in the between-scenes blackout
in Act III, when Davidson's true nature came to the fore. Her
anguished scream was real, and chilling. And a glimpse of what
might have been.
Also with Robert Moore, Dawuud Nyamekye, Jonathan
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Copyright 2000 David Mackler