Sunday, August 11, 2019

Review: 'The Rainmaker' outstanding drama at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey

Now on the stage of the Kirby Theatre, home of The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison, is a superior, captivating version of N. Richard Nash’s American classic tale of the quest for love and hope ‘The Rainmaker.’ 

The setting is a Western state on a summer day in a time of a great drought. All activity takes place on the struggling Curry farm. The family consists of the widowed father, and his unmarried adult daughter and two sons. They are desperate for rain as their livestock suffer. They are also lonely, thirsting for love. Then one day a charismatic stranger arrives changing their lives forever. He claims to be a rainmaker of considerable success. His fee is $100… they pay? Can he make it rain? Or is it a scam? Enough of the plot. Treat yourself to an outstanding theater experience. Live theater at its best. 

This is a marvelous, stirring play about yearning, family, hope, and the magic that 'sometimes pours down on us from the unlikeliest of sources.'

It  was a success on Broadway in 1954 starring Geraldine Page as Lizzy and Darren McGavin as ’Starbuck’ the rainmaker, and in 1956 the motion picture version starred Burt Lancaster in the title role with Katherine Hepburn as Lizzy. It was also produced as a musical ‘110 in the Shade.’

This STNJ version is absolutely first class. It could play on any stage east of the Hudson (and beyond).  Hard to envision a more perfect cast (Ok, except Geraldine Page and Hepburn!).

The cast includes STNJ veterans Benjamin Eakeley, Isaac Hickox-Young, Anthony Marble (photo above & left), Monette Magrath(photo above), Nick Plakias, and Mark Elliot Wilson, plus newcomer Corey Sorenson.

Beyond outstanding are Anthony Marble, playing the famous dreamer/conman, Starbuck and Monette Magrath as the lonely, spinsterish Lizzy. Magrath will take you on a powerful emotional, and beautiful ride leading to severely moist eyes in the second act, which she owns. Anthony Marble’s rainmaker performance is best described as ‘sensational.’ 

L-R: Eakeley, Hickox-Young, Wilson, Sorenson
The five other cast members are each giving spot-on performances; starting with Mark Elliot Wilson as the sensitive father of the Curry family; Benjamin  Eakeley as Noah the insensitive elder son and farm manager; Isaac Hickox-Young as the brash, younger brother Jim; Corey Sorenson as File, who struggles to tell Lizzy of his feelings for her; and Nick Plakias as wise Sheriff Thomas.

Directing is Bonnie L. Monte. This season marks her 29th year as the Artistic Director of The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey....both Ms. Monte and the STNJ are certifiable New Jersey cultural treasures. “This is one of my favorite American plays. It is filled with breathtaking moments and real characters whose story makes our hearts break and sing all in the short space of two hours’ time. I am so eager to bring this exhilarating theatrical gift to our audience!” said Bonnie J. Monte.

The creative staff includes: set design by Bonnie J. Monte; costume design by Hugh Hanson; lighting design by Matthew J. Weisgable; sound design by Steven L. Beckel. The Production Stage Manager is Becky Abramowitz.

 Reviewed by Rick Busciglio   August 8, 2019

 Purchase tickets at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre Box Office located at 36 Madison Avenue in Madison, by calling the Box Office at 973-408-5600 or by going online at 
The Rainmaker will run until August 18, 2019. The play is presented in two 70 minute acts with a 15 minute intermission.


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