Known for its avant-garde and absurdist fare, City Garage takes a turn for the slightly more naturalistic with its current offering, When the Rain Stops Falling, from Australian playwright and screenwriter Andrew Bovell. But only slightly. Bovell’s widely produced award-winning play skips back and forth in time, providing familial filaments in two-character scenes that are eventually woven into a multi-generational saga of fathers and sons, loss and longing, secrets and regrets.
Gabriel Law (Andrew Loviska), who is tired of his mum Elizabeth’s (Ann Bronston) fish soup and the off-white walls of her small London flat in 1988, sets out for Australia to trace the steps of his long-missing father Henry (George Villas). There, on the Coorong, he becomes involved with local girl Gabrielle York (Scarlett Bermingham). Though their affair remains brief, the ripples of it travel backward and forward through scenes involving Henry and younger Elizabeth (Courtney Clonch) in 1960s London, older Gabrielle (Karen Kalensky) and her husband Joe (Stephen Christopher Marshall) in Adelaide in 2013, and Gabriel York (son of Gabriel Law and Gabrielle York, played by David E. Frank) and his own estranged son Andrew (Loviska) in Alice Springs in 2039. Present throughout these interactions are the nonstop rain and fish soup, as well as echoed lines and metaphors.
Director Frédérique Michel’s placement of non-speaking characters silently observing or otherwise paralleling younger or older versions of themselves is evocative. Equally appealing is her employ of colorful props and a score consisting of aboriginal chant in the balletic interstitials. Sound designer Paul Rubenstein’s steady downpour and Anthony Sanarazzo’s video design provide the perpetually drizzly ambience of the scenes, offsetting the relatively sparse set.
Among the capable cast, Villas showcases range (especially when compared to his character in this summer’s The Conduct of Life), Bermingham has a feistiness that is mirrored by Kalensky’s vivacity and ferocity (as the older version of the same character), and Frank exudes a melancholy, quiet, self-awareness that carries the weight of the family’s dark deeds across the years.
From a fish magically dropping from the sky at the outset to the literal unpacking of family history at an intergenerational “last supper” of sorts, the play rewards those with a temperament for non-linear storytelling (and the stamina for two hours sans intermission) with a thought-provoking meditation on coping with the tragedies of life.
City Garage Theatre, Bergamot Station (Building T1), 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica; through November 23. (310) 453-9939. www.citygarage.org.
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