Colonial Players cast has winning opener

September 10, 1998|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Colonial Players has a winning opener for its 50th season in N. Richard Nash's 1954 classic, "The Rainmaker," which depicts familial and philosophical conflicts and adds much-needed romance from an unlikely source.

Director Frank B. Moorman has assembled a uniformly excellent cast, and he maintains a lively pace, even though much of the action takes place around a farmhouse dining table in the drought-stricken west of the 1930s.

CP newcomer Wilson Rumble portrays Bill Starbuck, the con man who claims he can conjure up a rainstorm for $100, in all his dimensions. Rumble has a perfect mix of ingratiating charm, strength and self-deprecating humor. He becomes irresistible in his love scene with Lizzie Curry, lonely sister of the Curry clan, owners of the ranch.

Anne M. Ellis makes an impressive CP debut as Lizzie, all but living the part. She is so conflicted and tortured that we want to shout approval when she runs from the house into the arms of Starbuck. In the climactic love scene with Starbuck, Ellis lets down her hair and transforms herself from plain to pretty by sheer acting talent.

Ken Sabel gives a powerful portrayal of her father, H. C. Curry, who tries to protect his daughter and later lovingly lets go. Jim Lefter is believable as older brother Noah with an annoying rigidity, central to the role, and David Howard makes an appealing kid brother Jimmy, who is not as smart as his siblings but enjoys life more. Howard gets the most out of every line and realizes every comic nuance.

Karl C. Wehr plays the sheriff and Joe Thompson is more than adequate as his deputy.

As usual, the props assembled by Mary Tsakis, including a star-caliber enamelware coffeepot and old crystal radio set, help create another time.

The sparkling dialogue from an earlier era struck a chord with many audience members at the performance I attended.

Maybe we had known a "fast girl with bleached blond" hair named "Snookie." Maybe she sped along at more than "40 miles an hour in her five-cylinder Essex." Like Lizzie, we might have been told as girls to emulate a girl who knew how "a man gets got."

"The Rainmaker" continues on weekends through Oct. 3.

Information or tickets: 410- 268-7373.

Pub Date: 9/10/98

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