September 28, 2012

When the Rain Stops Falling: Sins of the Fathers ...

Courtesy of IU Theatre
When the Rain Stops Falling, a new play written by Andrew Bovell, follows a family’s history over a span of 80 years and four generations. The play jumps around in time, from England to Australia and back. Sometimes characters of the past and future share the same stage. Sometimes it rains on stage. Literally.

Murray McGibbon, an Associate Professor from the Department of Theatre & Drama, recently took on the compelling project. He hoped to “foster a growing understanding of the enormous power of theatre” with a moving play that “pushes the envelope.” “It takes only two hours to explore eighty years in this play,” he said. “That wouldn’t work in another medium.”

McGibbon’s key mission in directing this piece was “to find the heart of a deeply passionate play.” In a play that exhibits excessively bad behavior, the heart is still very much present. Characters are shown to love others in spite of their misdeeds, to forgive, to find cruel ways of being kind.

When the Rain Stops Falling is a remarkable addition to Themester in that it explores how the bad behavior of one generation can shape the decisions of the following generations. McGibbon’s read it in the context of a quote from Exodus:

“Yet [God] does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

In this play, the wrongs committed by the first generation blight the fates of all until the fourth generation, when the rain finally stops, when the good-natured Andrew forgives his father. The family’s punishment for its original dark secret finally ends.

McGibbon noted that even if the audience did not sympathize or approve of a character’s behavior, each character was extremely compelling and exhilarating to create. He loved that the play offered the audience a chance to come to their own conclusions, to fill in the holes.

The audience is challenged by the decisions each character makes. Viewers are forced to reckon with their own moral readings of these decisions and characters. Some may consider helping someone commit suicide reprehensible and unthinkable. Others might see it as an act of kindness to a deeply disturbed and unhappy individual. Some might consider maintaining a distance with one’s child as cruel and incapacitating. Others might see its necessity, especially if a dark secret could corrupt that child’s view of the world and their own identity forever. Incredibly difficult choices are made in this play, and they do much to contest moral behavior.

Scenes from "When the Rain Stops Falling," courtesy of IU Theatre.
 “This is not a preachy play,” said McGibbon. “If anything, it teaches us that we are products of the decisions made by our ancestors.” The most important thing an audience can take away from this is the lasting effect of both good and bad behavior and how far down the line our decisions reach. When the Rain Stops Falling is an extraordinary play, and to McGibbon: “One of the best I’ve ever encountered.”

It runs again this weekend:
Thursday, September 27 @ 7:30 PM
Friday, September 28 @ 7:30 PM
Saturday, September 29 @ 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM

Amber Hendricks
Themester 2012 intern

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