Meet the Rogue

Live theater. Unsolicited commentary.
From Detroit to Lansing.

Carolyn Hayes is the Rogue Critic, est. late 2009.

In 2011, the Rogue attended 155 plays, readings, and festivals (about 3 per week) and penned 115 reviews (about 2.2 per week).

Contact: Email | Facebook
RSS: All | Reviews only | Rogue's Gallery

Search R|C
Theaters and Companies

The Abreact (Detroit)
website | reviews | 2011 SIR

The AKT Theatre Project (Wyandotte)
website | reviews

Blackbird Theatre (Ann Arbor)
website | reviews | 2010 SIR

Detroit Repertory Theatre (Detroit)
website | reviews

The Encore Musical Theatre Co. (Dexter)
website | reviews

Go Comedy! (Ferndale)
website | reviews

Hilberry Theatre (Detroit)
website | reviews | 2010 SIR

Jewish Ensemble Theatre (West Bloomfield)
website | reviews

Magenta Giraffe Theatre Co. (Detroit)
website | reviews | 2010 SIR

Matrix Theatre (Detroit)
website | reviews | 2010 SIR

Meadow Brook Theatre (Rochester)
website | reviews

Performance Network Theatre (Ann Arbor)
website | reviews

Planet Ant Theatre (Hamtramck)
website | reviews

Plowshares Theatre (Detroit)
website | reviews

Purple Rose Theatre Co. (Chelsea)
website | reviews

The Ringwald Theatre (Ferndale)
website | reviews

Tipping Point Theatre (Northville)
website | reviews | 2010 SIR

Threefold Productions (Ypsilanti)
website | reviews

Two Muses Theatre (West Bloomfield Township)
website | reviews

Williamston Theatre (Williamston)
website | reviews







« Looking | Main | Postcards »

When the Rain Stops Falling

A man waits to reunite with his son — a simple story, on its face. But even the most straightforward premise is infinitely informed by surrounding events, up to and including information unknown by the parties involved. The immeasurable heft of this interconnectedness forms the backbone of When the Rain Stops Falling, by Andrew Bovell. Now at the Ringwald Theatre, director Jamie Warrow takes this contemplative text and imbues the current production with depth of feeling that draws together scattered tales of dissolution into a cohesive big picture.

A quick triptych of video vignettes (given a distinct silent-movie feel by designer Mikey Brown) gives way to the domicile of Gabriel York (Travis Reiff), a rough-looking Australian man waiting to host his adult son (Bailey Boudreau) after years of estrangement. Reiff captivates through a jumpy, complex preamble of a monologue, attributing as much nervousness to the impending reunion as to the mysterious appearance of the intact fish he’s preparing, which gently emphasizes the future year-2039 setting and attendant preciousness of natural resources we currently take for granted. This initially meager groundwork carefully laid, the rest of the company pitches into a cyclical whirl of scenes, spinning out into exponential context surrounding Gabriel’s ancestry.

The connections are literally laid out on paper, in a crowded family tree in the program — a useful resource for a timeline with stops throughout the 1960s as well as 1988 and 2013. A gorgeous moving tableau also introduces the overlaid eras and the characters as each comes in from the rain in sequence, establishing rituals that permeate and connect the disparate scenes. Yet what begins as a daunting number of people, places, and times is not nearly as confusing with repetition; Warrow’s deliberate staging nudges one scene into the other, carefully (but not forcefully) pointing to the contextual links that weave together into a concentrated story fabric. The most obvious parallel is the ubiquity of fish soup, cemented by properties by Warrow and Reiff that have an elegant flow, but this is merely a gateway similarity that trains the viewer to identify linking idioms, reactions, and consequences, which prove to be legion.

The ensuing cycle bounces among crucial points of initiation and severance of relationships, across various Australian locales and as far away as London. Associations are made by actor duos playing the same character across time, as well as by the same performer linking scenes across miles. Begin, for example, with Gabrielle York, whose 2013 self (Cara Trautman) is irretrievably despondent, despite the heartbreaking loyalty and dotage of husband Joe (Joel Mitchell). This is in stark contrast with Gabrielle’s younger incarnation (Ashley Shamoon), whose bored and solitary soul positively sparks with an adventuresome tourist, Gabriel Law (Michael Lopetrone). His journey, in turn, has roots in a fraught relationship with his aging, distant mother, Elizabeth (Connie Cowper), whose categorical displeasure is slowly explained by past scenes of a younger Elizabeth (Annabelle Young) and her reverential marriage to Gabriel’s father (Bryan Lark). The ensemble is sharply attuned, and their collective achievement is substantial. Although the highlights are too many to fully catalog, two especially vexing character arcs deserve particular recognition: the leaden weight of Trautman’s pain and strange triumph of her short-lived lucidity, and the debonair Lark’s unseating and subsequent path of helpless capitulation.

Although twenty dovetailing scenes aren’t given to the clean break of an intermission, Warrow’s direction and a keen design keep things moving at a fair clip that belies the play’s two nonstop hours. The pairing of lighting (Michelle LeRoy) and media design (Alexander Carr) facilitates gentle transitions and cements time and place, using projections that announce each new scene and follow up with visuals that perfectly integrate with and/or supersede Carr’s neutral dining room setting. Period and connection are further reinforced by costumer Miekyle Turner, whose use of key pieces links people and stories in critical ways. Beyond the omnipresent rain, Barton Bund and Reiff’s sparing sound design (including original music by Sweet Pickle Billy) stays at the periphery, injecting occasional warmth into moments that tinge even fondness with wistful melancholy.

The overall tone of When the Rain Stops Falling speaks to inevitability: here, even meeting tends to feel like merely a preamble to parting. Yet in the face of so many goodbyes, both accidental and deliberate, the certainty of connectedness prevails; incredibly, the final retrospective scene reaches a delicate accord that informs and strengthens everything that precedes it. The air is thick with correlations throughout this dense production, which becomes its ultimate accomplishment — even as it curtails relationships, its stealthy success is in pointing toward what we keep of each other.

When the Rain Stops Falling is no longer playing.
For the latest from Ringwald Theatre, click here.