In a dusty Western town, drought plagues the Currys and their Depression-era cattle ranch. There’s the literal drought, of course, which has made the whole burg fidgety for want of a single nimbostratus. Then there’s the one that resides in the heart of Lizzie Curry, who cooks and cleans for her father and two grown brothers.
Lizzie is of marrying age. When we meet her, she’s just returned from visiting a neighboring town, where she stayed with friends of the family in hopes of finding a husband among the household’s similarly aged sons. But the trip proved unsuccessful. Dejected and worried she’ll end up an “old maid,” her fears are further reinforced when her crush—sheriff’s deputy File—doesn’t show for dinner. Despite the encouragement of her father and brother Jim, Lizzie comes to the conclusion that she’ll never find love.
Then Starbuck wanders into her life. (No, “BSG” fans, not that Starbuck.) The nomadic cowboy is a titular rainmaker, traveling from one dry plain to the next promising that for a hundred bucks, he’ll bring hail, thunderstorms, torrential downpours—whatever flavor of atmospheric percolation you request. He bursts into the Currys’ dining room without an invitation but with an excellent sales pitch. And even though the family takes him for a grifter, Lizzie’s father decides to make a deal with him anyway. Soon we discover that Starbuck’s talents lie in saturating desires as well as dirt.
N. Richard Nash’s The Rainmaker was written in the ’50s, which partly explains the play’s preoccupation with Lizzie’s marital status and the perceived delicacy of her womanhood. On the surface, it’s an irritating plot point. Lizzie worries she’s not feminine enough to “catch a man,” that she’s too plain or too smart (yep), or speaks her mind too forwardly. Her only dream is to marry and have children. And then it isn’t until a man comes along and tells her she’s worthy that she starts to believe it. Alas.
But there’s another aspect to the story that’s rooted in a more positive message for modern ladies. When Lizzie finally does come to love herself, it’s the true version of herself. She doesn’t dilute her opinions or put on a girlish show. She decides she’s beautiful, in every sense of the word, and that’s how she finds her parcel of happiness.
Adobe’s put together a great production. The casting for the show is fantastic. Each actor seems to embody her or his character, which makes for a believable and engaging performance. J. Ryan Montenery (Starbuck) and Jennifer M. Lloyd-Cary (Lizzie) are the stars of the show, and they’re both magnetic on stage. Montenery’s Starbuck is charming, impassioned, enigmatic and absolutely lust-worthy. He adds just the right amount of vulnerability to his roaming salesman, grounding the character in a way that makes you want to save him. Lloyd-Cary takes her time with Lizzie, letting her emotions shift and build and reverse before she finds joy. The rest of the cast is also fun to watch, especially TJ Williams (Jim Curry), whose good-natured smile radiates through the character.
Opening weekend wasn’t without its flaws, though. Despite the cast’s vibrancy and natural abilities, most of them stumbled over lines throughout the show, indicating that perhaps they didn’t get enough rehearsal time. Still, delivery is sure to sharpen through the run, and a few awkward moments didn’t detract too much from the enjoyability of the performance. A nice touch that the cast likely won’t be able to replicate: During the performance I attended—as audience members were delighted to discover at intermission—it actually did start raining.
The Rainmaker may be entrenched in outmoded ideals, and there may be a few snags in the performance. But it’s still a fun, energetic, well-acted and well-directed show; and in New Mexico, it never hurts to go looking for a little extra rain.