|Photo by Carl Atiya Swanson|
|Mason Mahoney as The Catalyst and Emily Dussault as Clara. |
Savage Umbrella's latest creation tackles a lot of territory, from Manifest Destiny to junk science driving public policy to the direct and unexpected impact humans have on the environment.
With all that, Rain Follows the Plow is at its best when it strips away the larger politics and looks closer at the personal ones. Inside of the show, we find characters trapped not just by the environment outside, but the rough terrain inside their souls.
Playwright Rachel Nelson's meditative script builds two worlds around a pair of couples. In one, a pair of Oklahomans struggle in the Dust Bowl. In the other, two college students wage a Quixote-like battle against a new dam.
The struggles of Ingrid (Blake E. Bolan) and Clarence (Michael Ooms) are far more concrete, as they fight against starvation and a place where high winds and heavy dust can kill you.
The struggles are more oblique for the modern couple. Clara (Emily Dussault) has returned to where she grew up, but her home and community are gone. She is joined by Jack (Neal Beckman), a classmate more interested in helping Clara through the rocky places inside her heart.
Mason Mahoney provides extra texture as the Catalyst, playing a bevy of characters in dreams and reality. Finally, Bryan Grosso becomes the face of an ineffectual and wrong-headed government in the Dust Bowl scenes, and an unexpected point of attraction for Clarence.
Ooms puts in a strong performance as Clarence. Unlike his neighbors, the character isn't a farmer. He is a voice on the radio, there to provide support in their God-given right to plow and till the land. No amount of faith, however, is going to make the rains come on the environmentally blasted landscape.
Meanwhile, Ingrid struggles with the everyday while her husband fights for his soul. There is almost no food left and the garden has been lost. Bolan's performance takes a more subtle track as her character fights to maintain a normal face amid the disaster.
Both Dussault and Beckman play bright and engaging characters, even though the haunted look in Dussault's character pretty much scuttles any chance the two have of making a go in the modern world. These two don't face the same ever-present danger, which diminishes their struggles. The scenes from the past are just far more engaging then those in the present.
Director Laura Leffler-McCabe and the design team craft a compelling world out of the script. That's especially true of set designer Zac Campbell, who crafts a world that is concrete and surreal at the same time; just like the play itself.
IF YOU GO:
Rain Follows the Plow
2301 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis
For tickets and more information, visit online.
2301 Franklin Ave. E., Minneapolis, MN