Know Theatre is just now launching its 2012-2013 season with the opening of a five-week run of When the Rain Stops Falling by Australian playwright Andrew Bovell. I have to say it was worth the wait. This dense, provocative script is a challenging work, but director Brian Isaac Phillips (whose day job is running Cincinnati Shakespeare Company) has staged it beautifully with nine excellent actors who are breathtakingly powerful in a complex tale that spans 80 years (1959-2039) and four generations of two intricately interwoven families.
The focus is on Gabriel Law (Ian Bond) and Gabrielle York (Miranda McGee), both born in 1960, he in London and she in Australia. We meet Gabriel’s parents, oddly intellectual Henry (Brian Griffin) and Elizabeth (Sara Clark) in 1959, and then Elizabeth, 28 years later (Adrianne Underhill). We witness Gabrielle near the end of her life in 2013 (Kate Wilford), deteriorating with dementia under the patient eye of her long-suffering husband Joe (George Alexander).
Their stories are framed by opening and closing scenes with Gabriel York (Nick Rose), the son of Gabriel Law and Gabrielle York, and his estranged son Andrew (Jon Kovach) in 2039. “I know why he is coming,” he says, anticipating a visit from Andrew, who he has not seen in years. “He wants what all young men want from their fathers. He wants to know who he is. Where he comes from. Where he belongs. And for the life of me I don’t know what I will tell him.”
That confusion plagues and drives several characters, who are implored to but cannot “let the dead take care of the dead.” The play zigzags through time to reveal how their fates sadly and shockingly decline and fall and how generations of parents and children shape and damage one another. Bovell’s intricately plotted story requires close attention to carefully constructed layers of meaning — and eventually understanding — using parallels of imagery (fish and weather, mostly rain), artifacts and repeated language to make refracted connections. Add to that Phillips’ careful choreography of the actors’ physical movement around a simple set (designed by Andrew Hungerford) from scene to interlocking scene, and you have a powerful and memorable production, one of the best I’ve seen at Know Theatre in several seasons.
WHEN THE RAIN STOPS FALLING, presented by Know Theatre of Cincinnati, continues through March 16.