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Rain from Heaven

Reviewed by Victor Gluck

Presented by the Reckless Theatre Company at Theatre 3, 311 W. 43rd St., NYC, Nov. 9-19.

S.N. Behrman wrote sophisticated American plays of ideas in the first half of the last century. The Reckless Theatre Company has given us a chance to reevaluate Behrman's rarely seen 1934 anti-Fascist drama, "Rain from Heaven." In this drawing room drama set in an English country house, Behrman brings together a whirlwind of competing ideologies—anti-Semitism, Communism, Capitalism, Idealism, Fascism, and Nazism. This play now seems uncannily prophetic about the horror the world was in for long before World War II was a reality.

Director Julie Hamberg is skilled at keeping the pace engrossing, even though the play is mostly talk. It is set at the estate of Lady Lael Wyngate, a wealthy liberal magazine publisher in love with Rand Eldridge, a charismatic American explorer of limited political perception. When Rand's fascistic tycoon brother and a German Jewish music critic refugee find themselves across Lael's cocktail table, fireworks erupt with all the characters taking sides.

Hamberg's casting is at times uneven and inaccurate. As the heroine, Donna Jean Fogel is good at the badinage, but not quite as English or as charming as needed. Wendell Laurent's boyish smile helps make the explorer believable. On the other hand, Jon Krupp is neither old nor authoritative enough to be his millionaire older brother.

As the German Jew, Bruce Ross is commanding and sincere, while the tycoon's wife, Andrea Maulella, is totally silly where she is meant to be superficial. As the tycoon's daughter, Nell Mooney has the right blend of youthful sophistication and idealism, while Richard Swan, as her opportunistic lover, misses the character's materialism. In a role combining several characters, Jane Shepard is competent as a Russian émigré. The physical production is quite beautiful, from the elegant pillared drawing room by Chris Jones to the '30s cocktail dresses by Moira Shaughnessy.

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