Rather than hide from bad luck associated with a cursed number, Good Theater begins its 13th season with back-to-back plays at the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland.
The theater company opens this week with the 1950s drama “The Rainmaker,” a longtime favorite of Good Theater artistic director and co-founder Brian Allen. The play runs through Oct. 19. Ten days later, the theater company opens the second show of its season, the comedy “Mrs. Mannerly,” directed by theater co-founder Stephen Underwood.
“We’re opening two shows in a month, which is ambitious,” Allen said over a juice at Mr. Bagel in Scarborough. “This is our 13th season, and we’re proud of it. A lot of people run from that number. We embrace it.”
“The Rainmaker” opened on Broadway in 1954, and played for 125 performances. It had a revival in 1999, starring Jayne Atkinson and Woody Harrelson. A movie version, with Burt Lancaster, Katharine Hepburn and Lloyd Bridges, received two Oscar nominations.
It’s long been a favorite of Allen’s. “It’s been one of those shows I’ve had on my bucket list,” he said. “It fit well with our season. It’s both timely and timeless.”
Set in the early part of the 20th century in the rural Midwest, “The Rainmaker” is about a young woman named Lizzie, a local deputy who might make a decent husband and a mysterious man who just arrived with the promise of making rain in a drought-starved town. The tension in the play centers on whom Lizzie chooses to love.
At its core, the play is about finding beauty in plainness. Lizzie reveals herself as a beautiful woman as the play evolves. “It goes to the heart of the idea that it’s not the external things that make you beautiful. It’s the internal beauty that matters,” said Allen, who directs a cast of seven.
The Good Theater version stars Broadway actress Laurel Casillo as Lizzie. She made her Broadway debut in the Tony Award-nominated play “Act One.”
Allen saw “Act One” at Lincoln Center and loved it. Casillo’s resume crossed his desk, and he followed up with a phone call.
She was immediately interested in coming to Maine to work. Turns out, her father recently moved to the midcoast.
She is joined by Max Waszak as Bill Starbuck, the title character who helps Lizzie believe in her own beauty, and Christopher Holt at the deputy. Also in the cast are Michael Kimball, Graham Emmons, Conor Riordan and Glenn Anderson.
Underwood serves as technical director for the theater and collaborated with assistant tech director Craig Robinson to build and design the set, which involves a house, the sheriff’s office and a tack room. Underwood looked to the home he shares with Allen for some of the wood in the set. The play describes a weathered, falling down house. This summer, Underwood and Allen removed a bunch of rotting shiplap boards from their garage and saved them for this set.
WHAT: Good Theater’s “The Rainmaker”
WHERE: St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St., Portland
WHEN: Through Oct. 19, with performances at 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, with 3 p.m. matinee on Oct. 11 and Oct. 18
HOW MUCH: $20 to $28
TICKETS & INFO: 885-5883 or goodtheater.com