During its relatively brief history, A Public Fit Theatre Company has focused on new works, frequently of an unconventional nature: When the Rain Stops Falling is no exception. The drama by Australian playwright Andrew Bovell follows four generations of two families, the tragedies that tie them together and the secrets that separate them. It’s not a light evening at the theater, but it is a play that will linger in your mind after you leave.
The play moves quickly back and forth between time and space—a family tree in the program and screened titles indicating year and place help keep the audience from losing the nuances as they situate the story. Often characters from two different eras will share the stage, or two actors playing the same character at two different points in their life. The story unwinds from Henry and Elizabeth Law, a pair of London intellectual types whose marriage gradually unravels under the force of her misgivings about motherhood and his increasingly odd behavior. But we also move back and forth to their son Gabriel, as he meets the woman who will be the mother of his child, Gabrielle. They’re a pair of awkward young people that turn their individual pain into a shared bond. And then the play features Gabrielle herself, remarried years later and, eventually, her son and grandson.
Regardless of time or place, it’s always raining, and bowls of fish soup and bits of dialogue about people drowning in Bangladesh recur. When we see the older Elizabeth, she is a bitter alcoholic who is often harsh and secretive with her son but, as we move back in time, her story becomes comprehensible and, ultimately, sympathetic. Tina Rice conveys the young Elizabeth’s decline from witty sophisticate to anxious housewife, while Valerie Carpenter Bernstein as older Elizabeth is alternately imperious and pathetic, as we realize her brittleness arises from being so broken. Jane C. Walsh and Timothy Cummings have a touching chemistry as the older Gabrielle and her husband Joe, while Mike Rasmussen as Gabriel brings an occasional goofy twist that lightens the play’s overall somber mood. The constant shuffling of the jigsaw pieces and repeating of the same lines can sometimes become distancing—you get the feeling Bovell is getting a bit too self-consciously clever—but the strength of the acting maintains the play’s emotional pull. When the Rain Stops Falling takes a little time to weave its narrative threads, but it’s a compelling tale.
A Public Fit’s When the Rain Stops Falling
The Usual Place, 100 S. Maryland Pkwy., through Nov. 13, 8 p.m. Thurs.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sat.-Sun., APublicFit.org