Written by Andrew Bovell and brought to life by the Aeneid Theatre Company, When the Rain Stops Falling is the tale of a disillusioned family that undergoes several generations of death, pain and depravity. This nonlinear narrative starts in England and later changes setting to Australia over a timeframe of roughly 60-70 minutes. Although that can occasionally lead to confusion, once things start to click, the show becomes very gripping.
The main players in this ensemble cast are lovers Gabriel Law and Gabrielle York, their illegitimate son who is also named Gabriel, his son Andrew York, Gabriel Law’s parents (Elizabeth and Henry) and Gabrielle’s husband Joe Ryan. It’s a complicated family tree, and as a result much of the first act is dedicated to establishing the relationships between all of the characters. This means that the show starts off kind of slow and leans a little too heavily on exposition at first, but by the second act once everything gets set up Bovell takes the opportunity to shock the audience by taking his characters to extremely dark, morbid and occasionally disturbing places.
This sense of foreboding is conveyed well by the play’s direction. Director Katharine Stocker does a very good job getting the most of her actors, all of whom turn in very believable performances. The hunkered down Elizabeth Law, who transforms before the audience’s very eyes from a vibrant young women to a broken, bitter old lady is a particularly noteworthy character. While the accents for the most part are done very well, the Australian accents weren’t always as clear as the English ones.
It’s the relationships between the characters, however, that makes this story so compelling. Gabriel Law’s tenuous relationship with his mother, Elizabeth’s slowly crumbling marriage with Henry and Gabrielle’s unloving marriage to Joe are all examples of intriguing storylines that intersect in extremely engaging ways. There aren’t any plot points that feel like filler.
The play flows effortlessly between scenes. There are very few transitions where the lights simply fade to black. Characters who aren’t participating in the current scene are often already on stage preparing for when the spotlight starts to shine on them, and while this is occasionally bizarrely abstract and jarring, for the most part it comes of naturally.
The set, lighting and sound design are also well done in this play. The stage accommodates a myriad of different settings, most of which are inside due to the fact that in every scene, no matter what year it is, it is almost constantly raining outside. The lighting helps accentuate this with a very deliberate use of blues, and the sound design of the omnipresent rain in the background is noticeable without being overwhelming.
The costume design also lends itself well to the overall dourness of the play. Most of the characters are dressed very plainly with a lot of beige, whites and pale yellows. Although the costumes don’t always do a great job conveying the time period (characters that are living in 2020 are dressed as if they were living in 1920), overall the play is methodically designed with a great attention to detail.
When the Rain Stops Falling is an investment. It takes some effort to wrap your head around what exactly is going on for most of the first act and some things that become hugely important and meaningful later in the play come off as superfluous and confusing at first. However, when this show hits its peak in the second act it’s deeply fascinating, and this foreboding, pseudo-apocalyptic narrative was well worth watching.
Editor’s Note: This post was updated at 4:59 p.m. on March 28th.