Following their packed performances of musical comedy Peter and the Starcatcher, West Virginia Public Theatre brings another piece of Broadway to North-Central West Virginia: Directed by WVPT Artistic Director Jerry McGonigle, A Hatful of Rain tells the powerful story of American war hero Johnny Pope as he faces new battles on the home front. Michael V. Gazzo's play premiered on Broadway in 1955, and was adapted into a popular film starring Don Murray and Eva Marie Saint in 1968. Considered shocking and groundbreaking at the time in its unflinching portrayal of issues such as veteran health care scandals and opioid abuse, this classic drama seems even more relevant today.
The play follows a whirlwind two days in the life of Johnny Pope, his pregnant wife Celia, his brother Polo, and their estranged father. During that time, family secrets are laid bare, relationships are tested, and the Popes' picture-perfect image is shattered forever. A review of the original Broadway production, written by Brooks Atkinson for the New York Times, calls A Hatful of Rain "a play of substance," and describes the scenes as ranging from "simple and moving" to "almost unbearably powerful."
"The subject matter is very timely, but the themes of the play are timeless," explains director Jerry McGonigle. "At its core, A Hatful of Rain is about hope, the redemptive power of love, and the reaffirmation that family is our greatest defense."
This production features a cast of eight who have traveled to Morgantown from opposite ends of the country to be part of this meaningful project. Matt Webster, a New York actor and composer whose professional credits have included National tours of West Side Story, dropped everything and flew to West Virginia to take on the lead role of Johnny Pope: "It is kind of a homecoming for me, working with Jerry again," he said. "It's an opportunity for me to dive into a role that's really complicated and multi-layered and to learn something about myself as an actor and a person."
Sadie Bell Freeman, who plays Celia Pope, agrees: "These are fantastic roles to sink your teeth into as an actor," she says. She was also moved by the play's message: "This show deals with things that people don't want to confront, but for so many people this is their reality. That's why we need theatre like this, to create a new perspective and increase our passion and understanding." She's quick to add that it isn't all doom and gloom: "The show is very well-balanced with lighthearted moments. We'll make you laugh, cry, and think!"
A Hatful of Rain is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc. Performances are held in the Gladys G. Davis Theatre (WVU Creative Arts Center) at 7:30pm June 20-24, with an additional matinee on Sunday at 2:00pm. Tickets are $18-23 and are available online at www.wvpublictheatre.org/tickets, at the Mountainlair and CAC box offices, or by calling (304) 293-SHOW. Group rates are available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. This production is recommended for ages 14+. Find out more by following West Virginia Public Theatre on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (@wvpublictheatre | #WVPT2018).