REVIEW: "Rain" Sweeps Away The Old Globe
Wash Away Your Troubles with The Old Globe's Rain
Photo by Jim Cox
Step into any theater, and the last thing you’d expect to see are the bones of a three-story boarding house towering over the audience, but that is exactly what The Old Globe’s Rain delivers. It’s a set so big and imposing that it’s almost a character in and of itself—the house rotates and reveals all to an awe-struck audience. Designed by Mark Wendland, The Old Globe’s set would be enough of a reason to see Rain even if the rest of the production had fallen flat—and it most certainly did not. Filled with sex, drama, and a sultry 1920s attitude, Rain delivers an emotional production from start to finish.
Rain found the cast trapped in a boarding house during a torrential downpour, but the audience certainly wasn’t trapped—no, if anything, they were enthralled by the magnificent show performed by The Old Globe. Adapted from Somerset Maugham’s short story, Rain tells the tale of the passengers from a ship trapped in the South Pacific during a giant storm.
The stilted and repressed Dr and Mrs MacPhail (Tally Sessions and Betsy Morgan) find small, ideological conflicts with minister Alfred Davidson and his wife Anna (Jared Zirilli and Elizabeth A. Davis). However, a true hurricane of dissent blows into town in the form of Sadie Thompson (Eden Espinosa), a prostitute running off to Australia to start anew… or so she says. The religious Alfred and heathen Sadie quickly come to blows, and Rain’s story of religion, repentance, and sin is born.
Rain has been adapted for both the big screen and the stage numerous times over the years, but writer Sybille Pearson and composer and lyricist Michael John LaChiusa were the first to turn Rain into a musical. Directed by Old Globe veteran Barry Edelstein, this world-premiere musical featured a series of high points that keep the much-adapted story bright and fresh.
LaChiusa’s music dazzles—but then again, of course it did. The 5-time Tony nominated composer and lyricist is known for creating innovative and rhythmic songs like Espinosa’s first ballad of the night “Sunshine.” In fact, throughout the entire production, the music of Rain is perhaps one of the best parts, bringing a fresh energy to a classic era of music. Eden Espinosa absolutely slays every song she sings, showing off an incredible range and ability. From her first solo “Sunshine” through to her “Finale,” Espinosa commands the stage with her rich voice.
The surprise standout was Marie-France Arcilla as Noi Noi, the native wife and co-owner of the boarding house. Arcilla brought a flirtatious levity to the production that kept the audience giggling and grinning throughout her encounters with Noi Noi’s husband Jo (Jeremy Davis). While Sadie and Mr Davidson’s butting heads ensured a myriad of conflict, Noi Noi and Jo provided some much-needed stability and grounding to the show—they were a bright light in the otherwise darkness, bringing balance to the performance.
If there’s one critique with this stellar version of Rain, it’s that the musical removes all ambiguity from the original ending written by Somerset Maugham. The shocking closing moments of Maugham’s short story bring all of Sadie’s actions into question, but in this version of Rain, those questions are readily answered by Pearson and LaChiusa. The doubt surrounding Sadie Thompson’s intentions is evaporated, and she is turned into a victim, a tragic character. As it stands, The Old Globe’s production ends with a feeling of loss and sorrow for Sadie, but perhaps keeping Maugham’s original ambiguity would have helped those final, heartbreaking moments pack an even larger punch.
Overall, if there’s one thing I can be sure of, it’s that we haven’t seen the last of Pearson and LaChiusa’s adaptation of Rain. With their spellbinding songs and banter-filled dialogue, Rain will surely endure the test of time. Rain is running at The Old Globe until May 1st Tuesday through Sunday. Don’t miss out on this incredible production!