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Theatrical Precipitation: A strong cast and direction make 2nd Street's Rainmaker a hit 

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This weekend, 2nd Street Theatre owner Maralyn Thoma welcomed guests with an opening night champagne reception and red velvet cupcakes while expounding on the virtues of The Rainmaker.

"It's a sweet play," she said, handing out playbills and warm smiles. "It'll make you cry."

The dust bowl drama, written in 1954 by N. Richard Nash, was made famous by Burt Lancaster's riveting rendition of the play's charismatic con man who tries to swindle a small town's hopes and dreams during an epic drought.

Sisters' thespian Shawn O'Hern landed the lead role of slick grifter, Bill Starbuck.

"It's one of the great acting challenges in the theater," said O'Hern about the role, "It's also one of the truly great American plays and has certain elements that make it exciting to create the character."

Set in a drought-ridden Midwestern town during the Depression, the play tells the story of a pivotal hot summer day in the life of spinster Lizzie Curry. She keeps house for her father and two brothers on the family cattle ranch. As their farm languishes under the devastating drought, Lizzie's family worries about her marriage prospects more than their dying, suffering cattle. A charming trickster named Starbuck arrives and promises to conjure rain in exchange for $100, setting off a series of pivotal events that enable Lizzie to see herself in a new, transformative light.

Opening in a ranch kitchen, patriarch H.C. Curry (played by Jim Lee) wrangles his two sons, Jimmy (Parker Daines) and Noah (Adam Eagle) and tries to quell the storm surrounding his daughter Lizzie's reluctance to marry.

The prolonged drought and its climactic rainstorm mirrors and parallels the dearth of romantic opportunities in the barren life of plain-faced Lizzie Curry, whose girlish life is passing her by with every failed dream. A divorced deputy, File, capably portrayed by an animated Neil Overfelt, is stuck in the same limbo of bachelorhood and stubbornly resistant to change.

As Starbuck, O'Hern handles the ornate flourishes of language with confident ease, entering his scenes like a whirlwind of passion and energy, wielding his Indian rain stick and announcing his intent as a self-proclaimed rainmaker. His touching late-night scenes with Lizzie in the tack room are handled with a delicate respect for the material and exude a truthful sensuality.

This production is directed by Susan Benson who has directed, produced and starred in many other shows at 2nd Street Theater and throughout Central Oregon.

"It's a classic play that seems very topical and timely right now and perfect for the western flair of Central Oregon," said Benson.

Jen Frisby, a frequent cast member at 2nd Street, plays the opposite lead role of Lizzie. This is her first starring role, but she does have 26 different productions under her belt. A sad vulnerability colors her performance, emerging from the clouds of mediocrity to a glowing self-awareness.

Those unacquainted with the immeasurable joys of live theater in an intimate setting owe it to themselves to come out for a matinee or evening performance and absorb the chemistry and potent charms of The Rainmaker. It's an oddly satisfying play with a dynamic, likeable cast that can win over hearts with humor, love and a message of the resonance of dreams and their importance in our lives.

The Rainmaker

Runs through March 19th. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for students and seniors. For tickets or more information please call 312-9626 or visit them at 2nd Street Theater is located at 220 NE Lafayette Avenue.


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