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A CurtainUp Review
After the Rain

The advance information on After the Rain describes it as a multimedia extravaganza set in the near future, amid power politics and sexual intrigues. In a season full of revivals, something smart and up-to-date seemed just what we needed to round things out To add pedigree to the intriguing description by the show's publicist, there's the play's history: A Moliere award (the same award won by Yasmina Rez for Art which I liked very much and am tempted to see with each new cast -- see link below) and previous productions in Barcelona, Copenhagen and London. Clearly a trip to Theatre Four where the play is making its North American debut seemed in order.

At first glance, the theater did indeed have something of a new look as befits a futuristic (near or in fact) comedy. The orchestra has been re-configured, with the first four rows removed to accommodate the sloping, gray metallic set which could be a plane hangar but is in this instance the rooftop of an 89-story skyscraper in an unnamed city. The droning hum that overrides pre-show audience conversation creates an appropriately ominous aura which is reinforced when the house becomes dark and viewers are engulfed by searchlights and much noise from what sounds like an airplane overhead.

That's as good, as suspenseful, as futuristic as things get. Whatever it was in Mr. Belbel's script that worked on the continent seems to have gotten lost in the translation. Maybe it's a case of too many translators spoiling the broth (the program lists three) or maybe the story simply defies translation to an American stage. Whatever the case maybe, After the Rain needs more than a helicopter hovering overhead and the three very pretty secretaries identified only by the color of their hair (Jennifer Chambers/blonde-haired secretary, Mari-Esther Magaloni/dark-haired secretary, Laura Wickens/Brown-haired secretary). These women seem in more old than new-fashioned office "relationships."

The premise that brings the secretaries, the head of their firm's administration (Joel Rooks), a daffy computer programmer (James Tupper), a messenger (Greg Sims) and the female managing director (Diana Henry) to the organization's rooftop is that this is the one place where they can indulge the last remaining vice: Smoking. One by one, and occasionally in pairs, they arrive on the single set for a nicotine fix. (Caveat to anyone who can't bear second-hand smoke: this is not herbal but the real stuff!). Whatever the humor in this, it fades quickly and the story line develops with as much substance as all those puffs of smoke.

By Sergi Belbel
Directed by Daniel Kadin
With Joel Rooks, James Tupper, Jenifer Chambers, Mari-Esther Magaloni, Kristen Lee Kelley, Laura Wickens, Greg Sims and Diana Henry
Set design: Mylene Santos
Costume design: Markas Henry
Lighting design: Robert Williams
Sound design: John La Barbera
The Red Hudson Company
at Theatre Four, 424 W. 55th St. (west of 9th Av.) (212/239-6200)
5/19/99-6/01/99;opening6/02 /99.
RevIewed by Elyse Sommerbased on 5/27/99 performance

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© Elyse Sommer, May 1999