BOTTOM LINE: A play for those interested in science, mysteries, and conspiracies; the script is worthy of a stronger production.
Strange Rain is a play about science, writing, and family. It follows the progress of two journalists as they investigate, of all things, the weather. Along the way they are aided by a couple with psychic powers and a “concerned citizen” who happens to know a lot about the work of Wilhelm Reich. A pair of artificially perky meteorologists and a homeless poet add, respectively, levity and philosophy to this modern sci-fi noir.
At first it might not appear that all these disparate flavors would make an especially successful meal, but at its heart Strange Rain is about two core human impulses -- the urge to create and our need for the truth. Sometimes those two desires come into conflict, as they have for Jim (Charles Goforth), a reporter who has disgraced himself by inventing a story. Having found a real lead -- evidence that someone may be manipulating the weather -- he passes it on to Shirl (Kaethe Fine), a former colleague and love interest whose credibility remains intact. Their investigation takes them way out of mainstream journalism when they are aided by psychics Erica (Jennifer Tchiakpe) and Elyzabeth (Julia Steele Allen).
There are a lot of characters and plotlines in Strange Rain, but playwright Lynda Crawford manages to keep them more or less in balance, and what might initially seem like detours end up bringing us right back to our central story. Particular credit must be given to those members of the cast who play multiple roles, for their skill in keeping their different parts distinct. Unfortunately, this production’s staging is sluggish and awkward, and its general sense of momentum is lacking, especially odd considering there is so much juicy material here. It’s a case of a clear day being obscured by mysterious clouds.
(Strange Rain plays at the Lynn Redgrave Theater, 45 Bleecker Street between Lafayette Street and the Bowery, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival, through August 22, 2013. Remaining performances are Friday, August 16 at 2PM, Sunday, August 18 at 12PM, Monday, August 19 at 7PM, and Thursday, August 22 at 8:30PM. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door, and are available at fringenyc.org, or by calling 866.468.7191. For more information, visit yayaproductions.com.)