'Rainmaker' forecasts a warm, inviting tale

Jon W. Sparks/Special to The Commercial Appeal
Heather Malone is Lizzie and Evan McCarley is the con man Starbuck in “The Rainmaker” at TheatreWorks.

Jon W. Sparks/Special to The Commercial Appeal Heather Malone is Lizzie and Evan McCarley is the con man Starbuck in “The Rainmaker” at TheatreWorks.

Rainmaker

Through April 21 at TheatreWorks, 2085 Monroe. Showtimes: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets: $15; $12 seniors, students, military. For more information: 901-484-3467 and newmoontheatre.org.

It’s a drought in so many ways. Without water, the cattle may die and the Curry ranch may shrivel. And without a husband, Lizzie — not getting any younger, y’know — may end up a permanent spinster.

The tale is “The Rainmaker” — no relation to the John Grisham novel/movie — about a rural Western family in the Depression era who are more intent on changing Lizzie’s marital status than anything. Although it would be nice to get some water, too.

The promise of an answer to all their concerns comes in the form of a slick con man named Starbuck — no relation to the “Moby-Dick” character or the beverage — who says he’ll bring rain to town for $100.

New Moon Theatre Company is presenting the show that, as director Amy Hanford admits, has plenty of cheesiness, but is also warm and inviting.

“You’ll see some real, honest characters and real, honest emotions and watching their journey as they evolve,” she says. “My hope is when people leave the theater and go home, they’ll be smiling. It’s one of those.”

Earlier this week, Hanford was presiding over the early moments of tech rehearsal, when cast and crew move from the rehearsal space to TheatreWorks and have to quickly figure out where to put set pieces, when the sound goes on, when the lights go off and how to avoid wardrobe malfunctions.

“I’ve never done ‘Rainmaker’ before,” she says, “although I have a child who was in ‘110 in the Shade’ — the musical version of it. I love musicals, but I also enjoy good old plain acting where you can’t break into song and dance — you’ve gotta do it.”

It’s also Hanford’s first time directing at TheatreWorks, and she likes the small stage. “I can’t see this show on any other stage,” she says. “It needs to be intimate — you need to be part of this family.”

The director is also well-pleased with her cast. “There is some amazing talent in this town,” she says. “I had a large turnout at auditions and it was hard to choose, but I’m happy with where my gut took me and how everyone dove into their characters.”

The production is a bit of a departure for New Moon, which in the last two years has presented acclaimed productions of the searing “Death of a Salesman,” the tragic “King Lear” and the creepy “Bug.”

“We needed a change,” said New Moon’s Gene Elliott, who was awarded an Ostrander last year for his sound design work in “King Lear.” But fret not — this foray into feeling good is a short detour. New Moon is next staging Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame” in June, in which one of the key lines is: “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.”

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