Play the Rain was developed as an ensemble piece by XYZ Theatre Co. It combines dialog, characterization, movement, and various stage effects in a series of vignettes loosely related by the subject of rain.
The piece began with an apparently dead woman, umbrella by her side, lying on the stage (set as a bar). The company entered from the house, patting their bodies, clapping, circling the woman, Sssh!ing, stamping their feet, and falling down. Eventually the whole company revived, rising up like sprouting seeds.
The opening came perilously close to a series of acting-class exercises (or a Feiffer cartoon taking itself seriously), but soon settled into a more dramatic format. The actors entered the bar one by one, and each eventually told a story in character -- the bartender, waitress, ex-priest, drunken woman, Okie scam artist, abusive man, and naive young woman. Sometimes the characters related to each other, as when the Okie scammed money off the naive young woman or the drunk and the abusive man tried to get together (the bartender broke it up).
The collaborative writing tended to the mundane, as did the movement and delivery. Some in the company barely projected to the fourth row. But the bits of staging -- use of props like spray bottles to represent rain, or gumballs to represent "gumball-sized raindrops," or a handheld mirror ball over the heads of two actors suggesting a moment of adolescent love -- stood out as flashes of lightning through the clouds. Simple lighting effects, involving side light, strobes, and overhead PARs, effectively set moods and weather. And the synchronized delivery of lines was crisp. Costumes (uncredited) appeared to be the actors' own.
That a company devoted to ensemble development needed a director to bring the piece together on the stage suggests that perhaps the services of a writer would be useful to enhance the text.
(With Scott Carlisle, Christopher McGill, Leslie Beatrice, Anne Y. Gracey, Joshua Gartland, Griffin Jaye Epstein, and Molly Mullin. Additional members of the ensemble: Joy Heather Cook, Michael Sag. Lighting designer/technical director, Paul Frydrychowski.)
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Copyright 2002 John Chatterton