Players Guild of presents ‘The Rainmaker’

By Sue Suchyta

 

The Players Guild of Dearborn continues its season with N. Richard Nash’s comedy “The Rainmaker.” The Guild breathes life into the Depression era story with believable characters that rise above hard times to find joy and possibilities in the face of adversity. Hope and humor – two ingredients much in demand today – make the story timely and enjoyable. The show, directed by Kim Donovan, runs weekends through next Sunday.

 

“The Rainmaker” is the story of a family whose drought-stricken farm is challenging their faith. Their personal lives are arid as well: Lizzie, the adult daughter and surrogate matriarch to her father and two brothers, thinks she is ugly and unworthy of love because her thirst for knowledge and independent spirit scare suitors off. Her younger brother, constantly criticized by their older brother, is afraid to spread his own wings. All are worried that the drought will dry up their hopes and futures.

 

Into this mix comes a con man: A self-proclaimed rainmaker who uses his charisma to promise weather wonders. What he restores instead is hope, and the ability to dream – something everyone needs to get through hard times.

 

Ron Williams leads the cast as Bill Starbuck, the self-proclaimed rainmaker and silver-tongued optimist. While his intended marks see through his wishful weather words, the patriarch of the clan, H. C. Curry, played by Richard Bulleri, sees a way to harness the con man’s optimism to restore some hope in their hearts. Both are point men around which the cast rallies: Williams with wit and words, infusing his scenes with personal power, and Bulleri with a steady, self-deprecating sense of humor that is both disarming and entertaining.

 

Maria Kovac turns in a solid performance as the free-spirited Lizzie. Although classically beautiful, she makes her character even more appealing with her effervescent energy, expressive face, and confident delivery.

 

Gary Regal, as the sheriff, and Kenyada Davis, as his deputy, make the most of their character roles, adding conflict to the mix when they set out to arrest the optimist-in-residence. Tim Timmer, as Noah Curry, the older brother, serves as an effective counterbalance to others’ optimism and blind faith, effectively projecting their frustration and fears.

 

Alex Gojkov pulled off a minor miracle of his own when he stepped into the role of Jim Curry, the younger brother, five days before opening night when his predecessor became ill. Gojkov, an audience favorite, delighted the house with his flair for character comedy. That he memorized the part so quickly and turned in a strong performance are a tribute to this young actor’s versatility.

 

Floyd Bell’s set design was versatile and allowed for seamless scene changes, using corners of the interior of the farmhouse for the sheriff’s office and the tack room. Costumer Mary Calder graced Maria Kovac with simple yet flattering dresses from the era.

 

“The Rainmaker” continues weekends through next Sunday. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m., with 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees. The Players Guild of Dearborn at 21730 Madison, southwest of the intersection of Monroe and Outer Drive in Dearborn. For tickets, call (313) 561-TKTS. For more information, go to its Web site at www.playersguildofdearborn.org.

 

 

FIDDLER on the ROOF: TOPOL at the OPERA HOUSE, CASTING COMPLETE at the GUILD

 

A “fiddler on a roof” is a metaphor for survival in uncertain times, accomplished by embracing our cherished beliefs, and finding joy in our ordinary lives. As each generation comes into their majority, the traditions of their parents provide both barriers to change and bedrocks of strength in the face of troubling times. It is no wonder “Fiddler on the Roof,” with its message of tolerance, perseverance, and hope is a local favorite.

 

Chaim Topol, the timeless Tevye, reprised his signature role during a “Fiddler on the Roof” stop at the Detroit Opera House this week. The much-loved musical had its original tryout here at the Fisher before moving on to Broadway fame and fortune in 1965.

 

Meanwhile, across town, the Players Guild of Dearborn completed casting for their own revival of “Fiddler,” having last performed the show in 1986. The Guild show will run weekends April 24 through May 17.

 

At the Detroit Opera House, Topol dons the role of Tevye as if born to it, and perhaps he was. Despite approaching the three-quarter century mark, Topol is still an audience favorite, bringing humor and playfulness to the role, and joy to fans worldwide. Paired with a strong, energetic supporting cast, favorite, familiar songs, and the energy of Anatevka, and you have a crowd pleaser on your hands.

 

Meanwhile, across town, the Players Guild of Dearborn has assembled a forty-two person strong cast to bring Anatevka’s message to life. Rehearsals have begun, with Diana Reynolds reprising her role of Yente, the matchmaker, which she performed at the Guild in 1986. Patricia LaFramboise, the Guild’s 1986 Golde, returns to play Shaindel, Motel’s mother.

 

For more information, call the Guild hotline at (313) 561-TKTS, or go to its Web site at www.playersguildofdearborn.org.

 

The Broadway in Detroit series will bring “Sweeney Todd,” “Lupone/Patinkin,” “Stomp,” “Annie,” and “Grease” to the Fisher this season as well. “Sweeney Todd,” the tale of a much-maligned barber with a strong appetite for revenge, will be at the Fisher Theatre March 17 through April 5. For more information, call (313) 872-1000, or go to www.BroadwayInDetroit.com.