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Review: Crossed signals across generations in ‘When the Rain Stops Falling’

A defeated Australian woman (Karen Kalensky, right) contemplates the hopeful future envisioned by her younger self (Scarlett Bermingham) and her British husband (Andrew Loviska).
(Paul M. Rubenstein)

When it comes to the heartbreaking silences between parents and children, Australian playwright Andrew Bovell observes that “having nothing to say is just another way of having so much to say that you dare not begin.”

In its handsomely staged L.A. premier at Santa Monica’s City Garage, Bovell’s “When the Rain Stops Falling” traces this legacy of estrangement through four generations, linking the recent past to a near-future environmental apocalypse.

The cycle begins in 1960s London, where the marital tensions of a seemingly ordinary couple (George Villas, Courtney Clonch) only hint at fissures that, 20 years later, will cause their son (Andrew Loviska) to seek a new life in Australia with an equally troubled local (Scarlett Bermingham).

In 2013, the fallout from their ill-fated marriage drives away their own son (David E. Frank), despite his affection for a well-meaning stepfather (Stephen Christopher Marshall). Only in 2039, under the shadow of global extinction, does the playwright allow a chance to break the cycle.

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Keeping the timelines straight is particularly challenging due to the overlapping presence of characters from the differing timelines, with older versions of the women played by Ann Bronston and Karen Kalensky sharing the stage with their younger selves.

There’s no sugarcoating the relentlessly downbeat mood here. Vivid impressions linger from Frédérique Michel’s fierce staging, which underscores the play’s austere geometric narrative structure with underplayed, admirably uniform performances and abstract choreography; the pent-up emotional floodgates open only in carefully controlled doses.

Charles A. Duncombe’s black and red production design and Anthony Sanazzaro’s rain-swept video projections create a stunning visual tableau that takes some of the sting out of the end of the world.

“When the Rain Stops Falling,” City Garage, Bergamot Station Building T1, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 23. $25 (Sundays pay-what-you-can). (310) 453-9939 or www.citygarage.org. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.


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