When the Rain Stops Falling
Photo: Ken Jacques

When the Rain Stops Falling

Nature versus nurture reverberates with the force of a thunderclap.

Written by Andrew Bovell

Directed by Rob Lutfy

Cygnet Theatre, San Diego

January 14 – February 14, 2016 (San Diego Premiere)

The story begins in the year 2039 in the normally bone-dry Australian Outback town of Alice Springs; now a land where it is raining to beat the band. We soon learn, through Gabriel York (Adrian Alita), of familial forces at work more unsettling than the weather.

Gabriel is coming undone at the prospect of an unexpected meeting with his son, Andrew Price (Josh Odsess-Rubin), who he abandoned 20 years earlier. At least the matter of what to serve for lunch is settled when a fish falls from the sodden atmosphere and lands at Gabriel’s feet. In a riveting opening monologue, Gabriel reveals that 50 years earlier his grandfather predicted that a fish falling from the sky would herald a great flood ending life on Earth.

Sorting out the present requires coming to terms with a family secret dating back 80 years involving Gabriel’s London-based grandparents, Henry Law (also played by Alita) and Elizabeth Law (played as a young woman by Beth Gallagher and later in the story as an older woman by Cristina Soria). The incident sets into motion a destructive recurring cycle of actions, inactions, and betrayals that will shape four generations. Also recurring in the story is the name Gabriel/Gabrielle applied to three characters played by four actors, both male and female. The program thoughtfully provides a genealogy guide resembling a company ORG chart.

The story line moves from future to the past and back again as well as alternates between continents as Henry and Elizabeth’s son, Gabriel Law (say hello again to Josh Odsess-Rubin), sets out for an enigmatic region Down Under in search of Henry, who walked out on the family before the boy developed memory of him. A few lines scrawled on the back of a postcard serve as Gabriel’s only guide. Here his future and his past literally collide. The audience holds its collective breath when it does. High marks to dialect coach Vanessa Dinning who masterfully worked with the actors on their British and Australian accents.

“When the Rain Stops Falling” is intricate and exquisite writing, by Australian playwright Andrew Bovell, that comes alive under director Rob Lutfy. All seven actors remain on stage throughout the story with one or two characters at any given moment fluidly advancing into a scene while the others remain hazily visible in the shadows. The effect is not unlike the way memories alternate in one’s consciousness. The claustrophobic, minimalist set (by Jungah Han) brings to mind the inside of an aged, splintered keepsake box.

San Diego ,
Lynne Friedmann, based in San Diego, is an award-winning, freelance writer of news, feature articles, and blogs on science, travel, and the arts. Her decades-long passion for theater was sparked as a teen when the Inner City Cultural Center commandeered classroom curricula by bringing classic plays to urban high schools in Los Angeles.