(Kerry Reid’s article appeared in The Chicago Tribune, 8/8/13.)
August 8, 2013
It may be tempting fate to stage "The Rainmaker" outdoors. No matter how much the Curry ranch needs a good, cleansing downpour, such weather events spell box-office disaster. But on a clear and cool opening night, the onstage warmth generated in First Folio's production of N. Richard Nash's 1954 romance came straight from the heart, as refreshing as a summer thunderstorm. Set against the natural beauty of the theater company's home on the Mayslake Peabody Estate, this production — the first non-Shakespeare play staged outdoors by First Folio — overflows with wry wit and unabashed optimism.
Sure, director Alison C. Vesely's staging comes ready-made with its own feel-good family vibe. Her husband, David Rice, plays grizzled H.C. Curry, and their daughter, Hayley L. Rice, steps into the sensible shoes of Lizzie, the only woman in the Curry clan and one whose incipient spinsterhood in Nash's pre-feminist and drought-ridden American Southwest provides a source of alarm and pity for her dad and her two brothers, stolid Noah (Matthew Keffer) and flighty Jim (Alex Weisman). But everyone in Vesely's sure-handed production delivers performances rich with real charm — the kind rooted in emotional honesty, not cloying faux-folksy affectations.