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November 19, 2013 > Theatre Review: Looking for love and rain in Ô110 DegreesÕ

Theatre Review: Looking for love and rain in Ô110 DegreesÕ

By Julie Grabowski

Ever despairing over being plain, Lizzie Curry believes she will never marry. Her kindness, intelligence, and homemaking skills so appreciated by her father and brothers donÕt seem to translate to attracting a man. Her visit to another town hasnÕt resulted in the desired relationship, and in their determination to see her married, her family tries to set Lizzie up with File, the local sheriff. Matters take an unexpected turn when Bill Starbuck appears in the rain-starved town with three feathers in his black hat, a hickory stick, and the promise to make it rain in 24 hours - if paid $100 in advance. His charisma and confidence inspire hope and belief in the town folk, and his eye for Lizzie challenges her beliefs about herself and her future.

Originally starting life as the play ÒThe Rainmaker,Ó playwright N. Richard Nash adapted his own work into the musical Ò110 in the Shade,Ó which made its Broadway debut in 1963. This year celebrates the showÕs 50th anniversary, and the Douglas Morrisson Theatre marks the occasion with its own production and the return of former DMT Artistic Director Nancy McCullough Engle in the directorÕs chair. This revival also has the added distinction of featuring NashÕs great nephew Avi Jacobson in the role of H.C. Curry.

Ò110 in the ShadeÓ is a simple, classic musical tale that washes over you pretty smoothly with defined characters, pleasant music, and a set of themes including hope, belief, the taking of chances, and being true to yourself. However, one must firmly keep in mind the 1930s time period in which the story is set. While the drought is a serious concern, the focus of the story is much more about the man drought in LizzieÕs life. While certainly not a new theme, the romantic hope and longing to find someone is so central and total in LizzieÕs life that as the story goes on her dream begins to peel and flake away into grating desperation. The song ÒOld MaidÓ reveals the pathetic, pointless void her life will be if she never marries, and the constant debate over LizzieÕs looks, and the possible need to alter who she is in order to capture a man are off-putting to say the least. Statements from her family such as, ÒI donÕt care who she marriesÓ (as long as she gets married) and ÒAt least you donÕt have to go through life as a woman whoÕs never been askedÓ raise the eyebrows and turn the stomach a little.

Whatever you may think of the subject matter, the cast is talented and adept, and makes a strong showing. Melissa Reinertson wears her heart on her sleeve as Lizzie, the womanÕs sadness, hope, and longing literally glistening in her eyes. Reinertson impresses with a genuine humanity and a voice that masters its every assignment. Avi Jacobson is endearing as H.C., a father trying to encourage and support his daughter and do the best for his family. He is affectionate and tender, and wears his role with ease. The simple, boyish Jimmy is played with spirit and earnestness by James Koponen, and Danny Martin never cracks as the hard and sullen Noah who only believes in the reality of whatÕs in front of his face. David Bauer shares a fine voice and sympathetic character as File, and Reg Clay is vibrant and engaging as Starbuck. A special mention goes out to AeÕJay Mitchell who lights up ÒEverything Beautiful Happens at NightÓ with a wonderful tap sequence.

Under the direction of Marianna Wolff, the orchestra is excellent and gives full, strong voice to the score. The music of Ò110 in the ShadeÓ is charming in that old-time musical kind of way, the songs smooth, comfortable, and welcoming, but unfortunately they donÕt stick with you; instead they seem to live only while theyÕre being performed and then quietly fade away when the last note is sung.

Set designer Liliana Duque Pineiro perfectly captures the parched, desolate state of the town with brown and rust tones stretching across the ground, over the shed to the farmhouse in the distance, and up the water tower rising into the rafters.

DMTÕs Ò110 in the ShadeÓ is a solid, well-executed production with plenty of talent on display. Just donÕt bring your feminist friends.

Ò110 in the ShadeÓ runs through December 8. A Saturday matinee will be held on Saturday, November 30 at 2 p.m. with a special post-play discussion. General admission tickets are $29, $26 for seniors, and $21 for students/juniors and TBA members with ID. Discounts are also available for KQED members and groups of 10 or more. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (510) 881-6777 or visit

110 in the Shade
Friday, Nov 15 - Sunday, Dec 8
8 p.m. (Sunday matinees: 2 p.m.)
Special matinee Saturday, Dec 2
Douglas Morrisson Theatre
22311 N. Third St., Hayward
(510) 881-6777
Tickets: $21 - $29

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