Bill Starbuck (Geordie Johnson, right) demonstrates his rainmaking skills to a shocked Lizzie Curry (René Augesen).
Written by N. Richard Nash. Directed by Mark Rucker. Starring René Augesen and Geordie Johnson. Through Nov. 25 at the Geary Theater, 415 Geary (at Taylor), S.F. Tickets are $17-82; call 749-2228 or visit www.act-sf.org.
Peopled with sympathetic, loving characters, the play might be unfashionably upbeat in its outlook. It's a bed of colorful, sweet-smelling flowers in a contemporary theatrical landscape mostly ransacked by pessimistic thorns and nettles. But Nash's core message about the power of self-belief as an essential tool for survival and growth in a difficult world is hardly a vehicle for nostalgia. If Arthur Miller shows us the dangers of dreaming your life away and David Mamet shows us the dangers of living your life without dreaming at all, Nash demonstrates a lucid middle ground: He makes us understand how a little dreaming goes a long way. "You're all dreams, and it's no good to live in your dreams," Lizzie tells Starbuck. "It's no good to live outside them, either!" he retorts. "Somewhere between the two," she suggests. The Rainmaker is a valentine to our own apathetic, embittered times. It gives even the most cynical and disenfranchised among us permission to dream, and in so doing, maybe even change ourselves and our environment for the better.
Self-belief is indeed a powerful thing, I thought, as I left the Geary Theater that night on a seismic high. It saves farms from drought, cities from earthquakes, and even theater companies from atrophy.