Before LCT's Rain really does stop falling, on Sunday, I wanted to point out what, for me, has been its signal virtue, the reason why audiences night after night the past few months have been so affected by its final scene: the play's lack of sentimentality. Among the production's professional commentators, only Linda Winer of Newsday zeroed in on this aspect, and then only in passing. Most of the criticism focused on the play's unusual structure - on the need to stay alert for the first forty-five minutes or so, as you might be a little discombobulated by Rain's plot.
It is true that the play's structure may be its most unusual feature. But its most potent one, I would argue, is its handling of the always eddying, always colliding currents of emotion beneath its characters' unfolding. Andrew Bovell's script, of course, provides the blueprint for the characters' feelings to evolve. At every "big scene" - a mother finding out, on the phone, about her son's death; a wife discovering her husband's disturbing sexual behavior - Bovell could have supplied big, obvious speeches that made the characters' emotions fully formed.
But Bovell, a sensitive craftsman, knows that life, at least life among most adults, rarely works like that. He wrote scenes that allow the actors to play two or three feelings at once.
The cast of Rain, securely guided by director David Cromer with his invaluable intolerance of too-explicit emotion, has had a field day with what Bovell has furnished them. Throughout the course of the production, almost every actor has told me what a pleasure it has been to play all this tough stuff. No one has said the journey has been easy, but none of them signed up for easy. They have, each and every one, fulfilled Rain's artistic commission, and I salute them for that.
If the unsettling subtext of Rain has made acting it difficult, the unsentimentality - by which, I should have pointed out by now, means EARNED emotion rather than the unearned, easy variety habitually served up by plays and movies and TV shows - has made each performance quite pleasurable to observe in the audience. Partly, I suppose, this is a function of the ending. That finale has been criticized by some as the evening's one sentimental concession. It's too pat, these people say. (At this point in the run, I think I can reveal that the ending involves a re-assembling of family members.)
I don't agree. I think that this sequence is anything but a cheerful gathering. It is, for me at least, a stark, potent confrontation of exactly what each character has surrendered. It is only sentimental if you think that loss of loved ones is a tra-la-la type of occasion. If you do, then Rain probably wasn't for you. For the rest of us, the production reminded us why we go to the theater.
BRENDAN LEMON is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.