The Shelton Theater presents……
Directed by Julie Dimas-Lockfeld
Starring Amanda Gerard-Shelton & Matt Shelton
Magic is believing in yourself.
If you can do that, you can make anything happen.
Part of the mission of the Shelton Theater is “to communicate what it means to be human in the world” and Richard Nash’s classic play does just that. “This poetic story has touched us with its quirky nature and courage to embrace the unknown,” says Director Julie Dimas-Lockfeld. “It only takes a sliver of hope…to step into the grandeur of a larger and even more real perspective.”
Lockfeld worked with actors who have studied at The Shelton Studios. Together, they created a moving tale of hope, love and beauty “The story for me becomes a romance between the elements of earth and sky - caring and dreaming,” says Lockfeld. “The heart of the story is about opening up our closed minds and valuing what is right here. Funny thing is that what is here is so much more than what we imagined.”
For those of you who do not know the story of The Rainmaker, it is set in rural depression America during a drought that is destroying livestock, crops and hope. Lizzie (Amanda Gerard-Shelton) is farmer H.C (Phillip Estrin)’s only daughter. She is single, lonely and as big a source of worry to her father and two brothers as the lack of rain.
Noah, her older brother sees her for what she really is, a plan, quiet girl whose prospects diminish with each passing year, but her father sees the beauty that is beneath the surface: her goodness, her honesty and her compassion for others. He loves her and wants her to find love and companionship, security and comfort. The younger brother, Jim (John Kiernan) is a bit of a lush and a dreamer and does not realize that while he squanders money and time womanizing and drinking, his family needs him at home to help with the farm.
Into this quagmire of starving cattle, failing crops, spinsterhood and frustration comes Starbuck (Matt Shelton) a con man whose real name is Smith. Shelton has created a character so charming and charismatic that his chicanery only adds to his appeal. He burst into the kitchen and his appeal mesmerizes both the audience and the family on stage. “I woke up this morning and I said to the world, this world is going at it all wrong” he says. The family is so hungry for hope that Starbuck manages to convince H.C. and Jim to give him $100 to make it rain. Both Lizzie and Noah doubt the rainmaker, but he reassures them: “Maybe God whispered a special word in my ear.” He goes on to say, “Faith is believing you see white when your eyes tell you black.”
This is an ensemble piece and all the actors support one another beautifully, but it is Amanda Gerard-Shelton’s professionally accurate and sensitive performance that carries the play. We not only hear her need in her speech, we see it in her eyes and her every movement. She is lonely and she has accepted that all those hopes she once had will never come true. “I’m sick and tired of being me,” she tells Starbuck and she goes out to the tack room where he is sleeping to find out if there can ever be something more in life for her. Starbuck convinces her that beauty begins in the mind. Sometimes, he says, it is a good thing to ignore what seems real, and believe that life is the way you want it to be.
When the brothers realize their spinster sister has spent the night with a crazy man they hardly know, they are scandalized. But H.C, knows the importance of love even if it is only for a moment. He tells Noah,” You are so full or what right you can’t see what’s good.”
And indeed that is the point of this play. We so often let our minds get in the way of our hearts that we keep ourselves from living the lives we could have if we but reached for the stars.
The set designed by Steve Coleman is a perfect replica of the time and place. It sustains the mood of the play and yet looks as if it were plucked out of an American farmhouse from long ago. Lockfeld uses the magic strains of the violin and artistic lighting to bring the audience into the world they see on stage.
The first thing we see is Lizzie in her bunk bed sleeping and we know that she is the fulcrum of the story. “I just thought that this story is actually more of a fable. It's more like elements in the psyche and I had the idea to style the production as a storybook tale. I wanted the experience of the actors to be real and personal and we keep working to grow that truth of experience in our work,” said Lockfeld. “Then maybe our modern sophistication and political correctness could be suspended a bit and we could enjoy the old fashioned family love, living close to the land, keeping faith in your heart qualities of The Rainmaker.”
The story, sentimental as it is, touches on important truths that transcend generations. Only we can live our lives and only we can make those lives magic. Lizzie says to Starbuck, "Maybe if you'd keep company with the world...if you saw it real."
But the truth is that if we can believe in miracles, they will comfort us. As T. S. Elliot once said, “Mankind cannot stand too much reality.”
This is a beautiful production, understated and real. It lasts an hour and 35 minutes without intermission and in that short space of time, you will be transported into a charming world where thinking makes it so.
Where there is great love
There are always miracles.
IF YOU GO….
WHERE: The Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, San Francisco
WHEN: Now through December 22, 2012,
Fridays and Saturdays, 8 PM
TICKETS: $38 GENERAL ADMISSION
1 800 838 3006
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