The Metropolitan Ensemble Theater thunders into its new season of classics with the timeless tale of a con man stirring up trouble and dust during the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s as they present Richard Nash’s The Rainmaker.
Stand up and cheer again for Karen Paisley, director, who assembled another blockbuster cast to initiate the season and give Kansas City audiences reason to bang their drums about the local talent, so abundant and so very talented. Count on the MET to deliver tip-top actors with topnotch directing. Couple that with classic plays and the result never fails.The Rainmaker continues the proud tradition.
Storm clouds are sparse in the Dust Bowl days. No activity in the skies does not mean a lack of severe weather inside the lives of the Curry family. Lizzie, Noah, and Jimmy live in Western Kansas with their dad, and desperation leads to risky chances. Bill Starbuck, the rainmaker provides the needed chances for some changes in the Curry family.
The Rainmaker demands a larger than life characterization as the con man that sells dreams and shake oil. Forrest Attaway delivers with force and stage presence from beginning to end. Attaway enters with hurricane force. His presence and spellbinding con game stir thunder and lightning within the Curry family. Attaway gives Starbuck the customary swagger but with a small touch of insecurity to build upon.
Starbuck’s character is that of the old jokes, “Did ya hear the one about the traveling salesman...?” Starbuck’s con bamboozles the unsuspecting farmer and beds the farmer’s daughter. Attaway bolts onto the stage and his magic begins. He’s believable from start to finish as his character unveils deeper layers and inner hopes.
H. C. Curry, Pa, comes to life in the capable hands of Scott Cordes, a 25-year metro actor whose career spans all areas of theater from comedy to drama. Cordes leads the Curry Family in their attempts to hold the farm together and marry off the lone daughter, Lizzie. Cordes uses his subtle skills to be the loving dad, but also the enabler to the problems within the family. He projects the image of the dad that wants the best for his two boys and Lizzie. Cordes gives a strong, yet gentle portrayal of the patriarch.
As Noah, Jason Miller walks a fine line between good and bad. He shows that Noah cares for his family but his nature sees unabashed truth and reason. That truth and reason provide friction when hope and faith are needed. Miller makes his character, Noah, likeable, yet dark. Noah understands the persona of Noah and his character must change at some point for the story to work. He delivers a very good but subtle change that displays his acting expertise.
As the dim-witted Jimmy, Kyle Dyck portrays a character that is naive more so than dumb. Dyck gives Jimmy a heartfelt charm and spirit of optimism that contracts very well against his brother Noah’s brash reality. Dyck gives Jimmy a positive spirit that lights up the dreary Dust Bowl epic. Dyck’s Jimmy focuses the story on the “what if...” scenario.
Lizzie Curry, brought to life by Jessalyn Kincaid, faces her future with ambiguity. Should she go off like the prize heifer from the county fair to get a husband, or should she content herself with being the “old maid” aunt that keeps the house and visits her family? That’s the character Kincaid develops and presents to audiences. Her Lizzy sees no hope with either scenario and she plays the part with humor at first and then unveils the insecure Lizzie that needs to find her confidence and dignity. Kincaid does a great job with the character and gives a performance that builds to a strong finish.
Torn between reality and lies, Tim Ahlenius, portrays File, the deputy sheriff who can’t seem to reconcile his past with his future. Ahlenius gives the character the right amount of early anger to make a new reality very believable as the love story develops with Lizzie as the fulcrum. File becomes a very real character in Ahlenius’ care.
The final character in The Rainmaker, the sheriff, falls into the hands of Bob Paisley who can easily slip into any character in any given play and provide a solid performance. He crafts each character with subtleties and mannerisms that make them real and believable. Paisley is a master at the supporting characters in any piece. Always count on him for a good performance.
The Rainmaker set works well and enhances the production without causing any distractions with scene changes. The story needs a main room for most action, a stable-type area for Starbuck to sleep, and an outdoor area for two other scenes. Lighting and careful set design function well for these.
When considering live theater, always look to the MET to see what is on the boards. Expect good shows, good directing, and great acting. That’s the norm. The Rainmaker runs through Oct. 6. Check the website for specific dates, tickets, and times. Call or visit the website: 816.569.3226 or metkc.org.