Okay, N. Richard Nash's pluvicultural comedy has a woman reinventing herself during the Depression on the far side of nowhere. And it premiered during the sexism-clogged McCarthy Era at that. But this is one slight script!
And so talky that Nash devotes - or so it seems - at least two minutes of dialogue to a dog's name.
And Cliff's Notes symbolic. Owing to a severe drought, the land is arid. So is Lizzie Curry. She has no husband. A recent visit to "distant" cousins came up dry. If she persists in her shell her father and two brothers worry she could become a "spinster" or "old maid."
It's hard to determine what they fear more: Lizzie being alone (since, in their minds, a woman is incomplete without a man), or how her inability to snare a mate will make them look. The males are far more concerned about loveless Lizzie than the corpses of cattle darkening the pasture.
It's also hard to determine because Nash's characters have almost no psychological depth. Except for Lizzie, they are predictable types, front and center.
Enter Starbuck, the "rainmaker": think Meredith Willson's Harold Hill - avant, as t'were, la lettre. For $100.00 he promises a downpour within 24 hours. He ends up performing an even greater miracle: he gets Lizzie to rewrite her back-story and thaw her frozen heart.
Others change as well. Even Deputy Sheriff File. He fesses up to being "divorced," and not the more acceptable" widower he's been claiming.
As in TV sitcoms, appearances matter most - and that everyone, deep down, is a really nice person. Much of the writing, in fact, resembles sitcom. The characters are mostly a dominant trait needing adjustment. Changes happen because it's just that time in the story.
The exception is Lizzie. She's so smart she horrifies men, Deputy Sheriff File most of all. So she seals away her heart and mind. And the author (the other exception) avoids the obviously romantic conclusion. But will the reality prove much better for her than the fantasy?
For the Old Globe talented director Maria Mileaf has done what she can to give the play life, and conceal most of its arthritic creaks. Bring her back!
Danielle Skrassad's a fine Lizzie. She begins as a self-imposed Ugly Duckling, goes through an inauthentic "sashay" phase, and blossoms into a woman who has accepted her gifts.
Tug Coker plays File as such a shut-in one wonders if he could ever be Lizzie's intellectual equal.
(So many 50s romances are like voting for President. Male playwrights give the female lead just two choices, and she ends up voting for the lesser of two evils).
Except for Kyle Harris' super-charged, scene-stealing Jim, and Herbert Siguenza's brief cameo as the Sheriff, the other males are one-note: John Judd's H.C. Curry's too yummy; Peter Douglas' Noah (a Nash irony: drought/Noah), too stern; and Gbenga Akinnagbe's Starbuck too reigned in - and could use some of Tornado Joe's rhetorical passion.
Best of show: Neil Patel's minimalist set figures and re-configures like a Rubik's Cube. Tables rise from the floor, roofs and tack racks fly in, props roll on in seconds. And all are lit by Japhy Weidman's roaring reds and burnt oranges, as if the sun is not only setting on a long, parched day but, if she doesn't wake up, on Lizzie as well.