Who’ll stop the rain?

When the Rain Stops Falling

A hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

A hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

Photo by Benjamin T. Ismail

When the Rain Stops Falling,8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday; $10-$16. Big Idea Theatre, 1616 Del Paso Boulevard; (916) 960-3036; www.bigideatheatre.com. Through February 8.
Rated 5.0

Time’s arrow doesn’t always fly true.

The damage silence can do to a family is epic, and Andrew Bovell’s play about the repercussions of silence does it justice. Set in, variously, London; Adelaide, Australia’s ecologically fragile Coorong coastal area; the noted Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park; and the desert mining and herding town of Alice Springs, When the Rain Stops Falling is a story of family dysfunction wrapped up in the colonial enterprise, with a bit of climate change thrown in the mix.

The story opens in 2039, when a rainstorm drops a fish—that’s right, a fish, a very rare thing in 2039—at the feet of Gabriel York (Bert Andersson), who is awaiting the impending visit of the son he abandoned when the boy was 7. As the story unfolds, we learn that his father, Gabriel Law (Justin Muñoz) was abandoned at the same age by his father—a fact of which his son is not aware.

Back and forth through time (London in 1959 and 1988; Australia in 1988, 2013 and 2039), the play gives us the story of how Gabriel York came into existence—the history, the why and wherefore of his identity, about which he knows nothing. We see, even as the characters suffer, the damage inflicted by silence and secrets; the long-term damage enacted upon the next generation by parents trying to spare them.

Brian Harrower has designed a simple set that makes use of multimedia images projected on a blank sheet to apprise us of the time and location shifts. With direction by Kirk Blackinton (assisted by Scott Divine), this makes the play surprisingly easy to follow.

The ensemble cast is excellent, with special kudos to the four actresses (Carrie Joyner, Linda Montalvo-Carbone, Katrina Muñoz and Ruby Sketchley) who play two women at different life stages.

When the Rain Stops Falling manages to work—as time and history do—on multiple levels. For those familiar with Australia’s past, it will resonate as a sort of karmic justice, while those seeking a thoughtful family drama will find that, as always, karma is a bitch.