Rain, River, Ice, Steam | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Rain, River, Ice, Steam


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Rain, River, Ice, Steam, Victory Gardens Theater. S.L. Daniels's lyrical, spiritual work about a town that may or may not have experienced a miracle is one of those rare plays whose flaws and virtues are virtually identical. On the one hand, it's episodic, incomplete, and devoid of satisfying answers. And on the other, that's precisely her point.

In the unnamed town, a dangerous conflagration has been extinguished by a sudden, impossibly accurate rainstorm, and an opportunistic rainmaker of sorts has bottled the rain, promising miracle cures. Like any other magic tonic, the rain brings comfort to the ill, flights of fancy to dreamers, and pretty much nothing to pragmatists. Daniels's primary concern is not the validity of the miracle, however, but what it reveals about her idiosyncratic characters: a wealthy spiritual seeker and a troubled family composed of a well-meaning librarian, his impulsive, neurotic wife, and her teenage daughter. Rounding out the cast with a silent firefighter who's too intelligent to speak or doubt the truth of miracles and a doctor who's lost faith in medicine and himself, Daniels offers a hypnotizing excursion into a land where storybook fantasy and by-the-books domestic drama coexist.

Acted with remarkable grace and humor under Sandy Shinner's direction, Rain, River, Ice, Steam successfully avoids the pitfalls of New Age spiritualism into which one occasionally fears it will stumble. And although it proffers no clear-cut solutions, one is happy to glide along with this gently moving play focused on the journey rather than the destination.

--Adam Langer

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