There Will Come Soft Rains
nytheatre.com review by Nathaniel Kressen
August 8, 2008
On the opening day of FringeNYC 2008, I headed to a late night performance of There Will Come Soft Rains (A Science-Fiction Symphony in Three Acts), produced by Sinking Ship Productions. The one-hour show tells three different stories through puppetry, projections, dance, and live music. The source material features "How the World Was Saved" by Stanislaw Lem, "On the Nature of Time" by Bill Pronzini & Barry N. Malzberg, and "There Will Come Soft Rains" by Ray Bradbury.
Shipping Sink Productions makes a valiant effort with Soft Rains. Their company of actors, dancers, and puppeteers are extremely capable, and are lovely to watch. John Levin's direction is inventive and he deserves praise for adapting these stories into such a visually stunning work of theatre. Farah Joyner's set and puppet designs are nothing short of fantastic, and shape the backbone of the show.
The overarching theme of the night is articulated within the adaptation of Bradbury's story: Man creates Machine, Machine outlives Man, Nature outlives all. The story focuses on a house equipped to provide all its occupants' needs that continues performing its hourly operations long after a nuclear fallout has killed its occupants. The performances in this piece from the three actresses/puppeteers are the most cohesive in the show. They never break from the rigid rhythm except for once, when an intruder enters the house, yet somehow manage to create a semblance of heart within the machine which has outlived its usefulness. There are many striking images onstage during the evening, however one of my favorite moments is the simplicity with which they staged rain falling.
The show is ambitious in its utilization of the New School Theater, however the action periodically ground to a halt due to the company's unfamiliarity in the space. In the performance I attended it took upwards of two minutes to reset between segments. Surely this will be remedied as performances continue through the festival.
The production is a visually beautiful work, and Sinking Ship Productions is most certainly a company to look out for. However here their material is more contemplative that transformative—examining the fallout rather than experiencing it. I found myself wishing that they had chosen more lively material, simply so that I could witness their obvious talent paired with a more engaging storyline. Their skill in crafting dance/puppet theater is apparent, and almost all of their risks pay off. I am sure the next time they grace the NYC stage, they'll deliver more of the drive and bite I had hoped for here.