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Downton's Crawleys have nothing on Rainmaker's Currys

It would be easy to dismiss the plight of the heroine in "The Rainmaker" as dated and not politically correct. I did -- well at first. I admit to cringing a little when her brothers referred to low prospects for marriage, her description as "plain," and the necessity to "settle" for whatever man came her way in order to be happy.

But it occurred to me that the situation of the Curry family, ranchers in a western state during a drought, isn't all that different than that of the Crawley's of "Downton Abbey" -- they're just a lot better dressed with cool accents. It is time for me to lose the attitude.

Contributing to the success of this family drama is Hudson's own theatrical clan, the Reidenbachs. Directed by Beth Reidenbach, she had to look no further than her dinner table to find the perfect person to pay H.C., the well-meaning patriarch, as well as the dreamer in the story, Starbuck, played by son Lucas Reidenbach. Say what you will, sometimes getting a great cast can be convenient.

The other members of the story's family are just as connected. Katie McCabe plays Lizzie with strength and smarts. Stereotypes aside, there is something in her character's character that not only has the audience rooting for her, but who we know will be just fine with or without our support.

John Nickolaus as big brother Noah, who seems to know it all, and Tyler Haines as little brother Jim, first look enough alike to be related, and then proceed to create a relationship with one another and their father and sister that combines great big blunders along with great big love and lots of affection.

And any time I see Jim Reidenbach's name on a Phipps program, I relax and sit back knowing I am going to see something I will not only enjoy but believe. The compassion and love he demonstrates for his children, all of them, make this show timeless in its message. Parents make mistakes but keep trying because they love their kids.

Lucas Reidenbach has already had some memorable roles on The Phipps stage and he can add Starbuck to that list. He brags and boasts with the best of them and summons compassion and vulnerability in equal measure.

Rounding out this strong cast is deputy File played by Keith Johnson who makes a pretty loveable but pretty unlikely love interest. And Woody Davison as Sheriff Thomas couldn't be any better or more spot on as the wise, old lawman.

Director Reidenbach has delivered another great show and it is perfect for The Phipps Black Box, an intimate space for an intimate story. Kudos should go to scenic designer Brian Proball, lighting designer Sarah Leigh, costume designer Luisa Fumagalli, sound designer A.J. Rivera and technical director Mark Koski.

The story Reidenbach tells in "The Rainmaker" may not be the most feminist show I've ever seen, but it is honest and very well told. All the labels and assumptions aside, who doesn't want to find someone to love, someone to build a life with, and be surrounded by a family who wants you to be happy.

"The Rainmaker" performances are Jan. 11-27 on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. as well as Sundays, Jan. 20, and 27 at 2 p.m. in the Black Box Theater. General admission tickets are $22 for adults and $15 for students of all ages, with a $2 discount for the opening weekend, and a $2 discount for seniors on the Sunday matinees. For reservations, contact The Phipps ticket office at (715) 386-8409 or online at www.ThePhipps.org.

Meg Heaton
Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
(715) 808-8604
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