East Lynne Theater Company presents “The Rainmaker”

East Lynne - Rainmaker

“I tried to tell a simple story about droughts that happen to people, and about faith,” wrote N. Richard Nash (1913-2000) in regards to his own profoundly beautiful play, “The Rainmaker.”

It’s the 1930’s, out West, during the Depression, with no hope of rain in site.  Enter Starbuck, who tells the Curry family that within twenty-four hours he can make it rain if they give him $100.  Although H.C., his son Noah and daughter Lizzie believe Starbuck is “a liar and a con man,” H.C. has the faith to give him the money, in spite of others’ objections.    

The award-winning Equity professional East Lynne Theater Company is proud to present this Western comedy-drama.  Opening on July 24, with an after-show party at Aleathea’s at the Inn of Cape May, 7 Ocean Street, “The Rainmaker” runs through August 31, at the First Presbyterian Church of Cape May, 500 Hughes Street, where the theater is in residence. There are four performances weekly, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. An after-show Q&A with the cast and director is on Friday, August 2.

“The Rainmaker” started out as a one-act 1953 production for Philco Television Playhouse. The full two-act play was a smash hit on Broadway in 1954, starring Geraldine Page and Darrin McGavin.  It has been translated into over 40 languages and the 1956 film (also written by Nash) starred Katharine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster. 

The Broadway musical “110 in the Shade,” based on “The Rainmaker,” written by Nash, with Tom Schmidt and Harvey Jones providing music and lyrics, was the first Broadway show seen by ELTC’s artistic director Gayle Stahlhuth. (The next night, it was “Funny Girl.”) In the 1970’s, Stahlhuth played Lizzie in “The Rainmaker” in a dinner theater in Florida. Believing the time is absolutely right for this revival, Stahlhuth, now in her 20th year of helming ELTC, is eager to bring her directorial interpretation to the stage.  On August 1, relatives of the playwright will be in the audience. 

Returning to ELTC is fight director Joseph Travers who choreographed the fights in “Zorro!” and “Within the Law.”  He’s served as fight director for Broadway (“Bronx Bomber”) and Off-Broadway (“The View Upstairs”) productions as well as for many companies that include Playwrights Horizons, New York Theatre Workshop, Primary Stages, Capital Repertory Company, and the Fulton Theatre.

New to ELTC is Jon Kovach who plays Starbuck. He’s received awards as an actor, musician, director, writer, and producer. In NYC, he’s performed at Red Bull, Fault Line, The Tank, 54 Below, Theatre Row, and Boomerang. Regionally, he’s appeared at Bay Street, Guild Hall, Capital Rep., Merrimack Rep., Playhouse in the Park, Human Race, B Street, Hippodrome, and Wellfleet Harbor Actors’ Theatre.

The Curry family are H.C., played by John Cameron Weber, and his three children: Noah, portrayed by Mark Edward Lang, Jim, played by Jeffrey Smith, and taking on the role of Lizzie, is Veronique Hurley. 

Weber, Lang, and Hurley have each performed in several ELTC shows, and all three worked together in ELTC’s “Biography.” Weber has appeared in commercials and soaps, various regional theaters and national tours that include “State Fair,” “Dial M for Murder,” and “Kiss Me Kate.” Theater and corporate training events have taken Lang to 35 states and around the world. He’s performed Shakespeare, Molière and new works in NYC and on tour, and also directs, including for ELTC (“Anna Christie”).  Recently, he played Alfred Lunt in “Lunt and Fontanne: The Celestials of Broadway,” which he also wrote, and was produced at the NYC International Fringe Festival. Hurley’s Off-Broadway credits include “The Tempest,” “As You Like It,” “Twelfth Night,” and “Hunting and Gathering” at The Glass Eye. Regionally, she’s performed at The Hartford Stage Company, Cape May Stage, and Playhouse on Park.

Taking on the roles of local law enforcement are Jeff Sharkey, who plays the Sheriff, and Mat Labotka, playing File, his assistant. Sharkey has been involved with the South Jersey theater scene for over ten years, having performed with Margate Players, Elaine’s Dinner Theater, and Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities’ Murder Mysteries and Sherlock Holmes’ Weekends.  He’ll be returning to ELTC in the fall to play Officer Klein in “Arsenic and Old Lace.”  New to ELTC is Labotka, an alum of Chicago’s Second City Conservatory. New York credits include Henry in “The King’s Face,” Albert in “Relativity of Love,” and Victor in “The Star and The Fire.”  He also performs in commercials, improv and stand-up comedy. 

Tickets are $35 for general admission, $30 for seniors and those with disabilities and their support companions, $20 for full-time students and military (active/retired/veteran), and, as always, anyone age 12 and under is free. For information and reservations, call 609-884-5898 or visit eastlynnetheater.org.

Meanwhile, “Summerland,” the historical-fiction mystery written by Arlitia Jones, can be seen through July 20 on ELTC’s mainstage. “Tales of the Victorians” continues every Thursday at 4 p.m. at different venues through August 15.