By Kara Blizzard –
This semester’s play is likely to leave viewers in debate. The production is based on Somerset Maugham’s short story “Rain,” in which two couples – a missionary and a doctor and their wives – end up stranded together on the Samoan island of Pago-Pago. They take up residence in a house where a prostitute also happens to be staying. Tension ensues.
According to director and scriptwriter Paul “Sparky” Johnson, the play fits with Augustana’s theme of dissent: “It’s a good debate between the idea of any kind of religious evangelism or colonization, or whether the people in their own innocence and their own religions are better left alone and respected for what they have. At the same time, the woman who is in conflict with the missionary is a prostitute, which is again an area open to debate. Does it demean women, or is she empowered because of it?”
This production is different from many past ones in that the group started with a work of literature that they gradually adapted into a play. Devon Hunter, who plays the doctor’s wife, suggests that working this way is sometimes more challenging but has its benefits. “It’s different,” she says. “It allows more freedom because you really get to create your own character. It’s more open to interpretation. You feel more connected to the play too, because in a way you wrote it.” Somerset Rain will be Devon’s fourth production at Augustana; last semester she played the title character in Lysistrata.
For Chloe Wall, Somerset Rain will be a new experience: it’s her first play since she was about twelve years old. She is a bit nervous, but she’s also enjoying the process. “It’s fun because no matter what I’m doing, I’m learning something new,” says Chloe.”The play is the kind of story that you can look at in more than one way, so it will be interesting to talk to people afterwards and see how they interpreted it. Even among the cast, we have differing perspectives.”
Somerset Rain will play March 4-6 and March 11-13 at 7:30 p.m. in the Augustana Theatre Centre. Tickets are available at the door, at $15 for adults and $5 for students who bring ID.