Those who remember the term “six degrees of separation” will find elements of such connections in “When the Rain Stops Falling” by Australian playwright Andrew Bovell, playing at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town through Feb. 14.
Because the story covers 80 years and moves between Australia and London, strict attention is required from audiences from beginning to end. Bovell’s engaging aim is a focus on what happens to families when their children are young and how their experiences end up affecting them when they are old. Do they remain loving relatives or distant and unable to overcome horrific occurrences?
Gabriel York (Adrian Alita) is a lonely man in a much-neglected apartment with little enthusiasm until he hears from his estranged son of 20 years. Learning that his son (Josh Odess-Rubin) is coming to visit, he frets over how to clean up his place and how he will feed his son, having no food nor money.
As Gabriel stands under a huge cloud mid-stage, rain pours down behind him and a fish suddenly falls from the sky. A loud roar from Gabriel becomes a thank-you for the fish delivery that will feed his son.
Fish actually becomes a character in the play as family members of different ages come and go at the same table. Each wanders over to get his or her own bowl of fish soup, takes a seat and reveals a bit about who they are, what they’ve experienced and maybe where they will go from here.
Gabriel then jumps into a different time in the story where he plays Henry Law, married to Elizabeth Law (Christina Soria). Elizabeth goes through several scenarios brilliantly playing the downtrodden wife and mother not wanting to encounter any of her relations. Beth Gallagher takes on the role of the younger Elizabeth Law, dropping a clue here and there, as to her real story.
The cast, including Rosina Reynolds as Gabrielle Law, Tom Stephenson as Joe Ryan and Rachael VanWormer as younger Gabrielle York, is absolutely immersed in the characters. They, rant, cry, scream profanity, and wallow in their misery and poor decisions. The sound design and music by composer Kevin Anthenill is fitting throughout the action.
Cygnet continues to seek plays that go beyond the point of expectation, and much talent and work has gone into this San Diego premiere to deliver on that promise. While the audience stood to give rousing, long applause, there were still comments from some on the way out about being confused as to who was who and what they did — a warning to those who desire happy endings.
I found the rough and troubled parts of the characters’ lives extremely well presented. However, I left the theater somewhat depressed; I wanted a little more of their lives to have happiness.