CULTURE WATCH — A fish falls from the sky and a story told across multiple generations begins. “When The Rain Stops Falling” is the latest offering by City Garage, written by award-winning Australian playwright Andrew Bovell. It’s compelling theatre with an engaging plot and not a typical City Garage production.
City Garage often features experimental, non-linear, stylized stage productions frequently including nudity (though not gratuitously).
Not so this time. Relatively speaking this is a more conventional drama, albeit punctuated with the trademark artistic, choreographic and theatrical design elements that City Garage is renowned for, especially under the direction of Fr√©d√©rique Michel. Stark contrasting colors, multi-level platforms and synchronized movements mark this work.
Be prepared: the play runs just under two hours and there’s no intermission. Plus there’s the constant sound of rain and water. But I can’t think of a single place in the play that would lend itself to a break. So just sit back and let it wash over you.
We meet 50-year-old Gabriel in Alice Springs, Australia in 2039, where he has just caught a fish that dropped out of the sky. An environmental disaster is unfolding globally and it has been raining relentlessly for years in the driest heart of this remote continent.
Gabriel has received word that his son, Andrew, wants to visit; they have not had contact for years and he has nothing to make for lunch … until the fish arrives. He knows instinctively that Andrew is seeking to find himself and understand where he came from. The visit will send Gabriel into nervous action trying to make a good impression, cleaning up his tiny flat, painting it, and fussing in a way that will have very little impact on its appearance.
This theme is repeated in other settings and times. Rain, soup and fish are some of the other constants throughout this time-tripping plot, in which we follow past, present and future iterations of Gabriel and his family. Hidden emotions, silent bitterness, fear and distrust, deep love, deep hurt and dark secrets mark this emotional journey, told in language that is often poetic and a bit incantatory, repeated verbatim from scene to scene.
Scenes unfold in 1960s and 1980s London, 2013 Adelaide, Australia and 2039 Alice Springs, near legendary Ayers Rock. Projected on a screen behind the actors are changing images of rain against a window, lapping tidal waves, a lightning-streaked starry sky that time-lapses across the night, and other scenes that establish geographical locations.
We meet Henry Law and his wife Elizabeth in 1960s London, where Elizabeth is feeling emotionally and sexually frustrated. The play’s great secret lies in Henry’s other longings.
When we next meet Elizabeth, it’s 28 years later and her son Gabriel is visiting, still trying to find out why she drinks to get through her life. Gabriel tells her he is leaving to go to Australia, where his father disappeared mysteriously after his secret was revealed. Gabriel wants to know what happened to him.
Along the southern shore of Australia, Gabriel, now 28, meets Gabrielle, aged 24, at a roadside diner and is smitten. She’s taken with him, too, but is far more cynical about the way things turn out in real life. She lost her parents early; and when they were children, her brother was kidnapped and never seen again.
Gabriel insists on journeying to Ayers Rock where his father disappeared, and while driving there with Gabrielle another dark secret is revealed.
Next in 2013, we meet Gabrielle at 50 with Joe Ryan, her husband and stepfather to her son, Gabriel, the result of her encounter with the other Gabriel.
The thread of the plot weaves in and out of these scenes and others, building to a surprising twist which I won’t reveal, but it’s not saying too much to tell you that Gabriel dies in an accident with Gabrielle carrying his child.
That child is 50-year-old Gabriel, and we will return to his flat in Alice Springs, and the anxiously anticipated visit from his estranged son, Andrew. As familial patterns repeat through time, we are finally brought full circle and left vaguely hopeful, as the rain does stop at the end, perhaps bringing these disruptive cycles to a close.
I highly recommend “When The Rain Stops Falling” at City Garage, located at the westernmost end of Bergamot Station, onstage Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. through Nov. 23. Call (310) 453-9939 or visit www.citygarage.org.
Westedge Design Fair
The second annual WestEdge Design Fair sets up at Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport, tonight, Oct. 16 through Sunday, Oct. 19.
It’s an opportunity to get design inspiration for your furniture, lighting, kitchen, bath, outdoor furnishing and other home needs from some of the leading names in design and architecture. Installations, special events, workshops, panels and discussions are planned. Gala cocktail parties to benefit both Heal the Bay and The A&D Museum will take place on Thursday and Friday nights, respectively.
Planning to build a home studio? Attend the panel discussion “Rock Star Architecture: Creative Design for Recording Artists,” on Sat. at 11:30 a.m., with renowned recording engineers, architects and others discussing the connection between studio design and the creative process.
Russ Diamond of Santa Monica’s Snyder-Diamond, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, will be featured on a panel moderated by designer Kathryn N. Ireland, “Built to Last: Developing a Brand Legacy in the Design World” on Friday at 2:30 p.m.
There are grilling demos (David Rockwell and Caliber Grills), an outdoor Lounge, the Jenn-Air Master Studio with programs for professionals and homeowners, a Color Consultation Hub presented by Benjamin Moore, complimentary tea from August Uncommon Tea, with Whole Foods, Horse Thief BBQ and Caf√© Bellas offering food and (bar) drinks.
I’ll be looking forward to the Wine Barrel Art exhibition! And I’ll report back with my impressions of this fair next week.
Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also reviewed theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.