Rarely done ‘Hatful of Rain’ on stage
"A Hatful of Rain," about a Korean War vet struggling with drug addiction, is being performed by the Village Theatre Guild.
‘A Hatful of Rain’
March 22-April 13
Village Theatre Guild, 2S720 Park Blvd., Glen Ellyn
(630) 469-8230; Villagetheatreguild.org
Updated: March 20, 2013 12:52PM
A play about war, drug addiction, infidelity and family dysfunction is coming to a local stage.
“A Hatful of Rain” by Michael V. Gazzo is being performed by the Village Theatre Guild of Glen Ellyn. Set in 1955, it’s the gripping story of an American soldier gravely injured in the Korean War.
The play, directed by Jeni Dees, runs March 22 to April 13. Dees hadn’t seen the play before signing on to direct.
“It’s not done very often, if hardly ever,” she said. “When I started doing research on previous productions when I was considering it, you can find very few productions of it across the country. That usually means it’s not a show that’s produced very often.”
The play has some interesting firsts, Dees said. It was one of the first plays about drug addiction to be adapted into a movie, and the lead, Don Murray, was nominated for an Academy Award.
The play has several plotlines running throughout, with the main storyline being a Korean War vet’s addiction problem.
“Johnny Pope was captured and injured in Korea. He made it home and while he was in the VA hospital, he became addicted to morphine, which kind of happened often back then,” Dees said.
He is sent home to live with his pregnant wife and his younger brother. Johnny and his brother Polo have had a rough life; they were raised by their father and a handful of distant relatives.
“The father thinks the sun rises and sets on Johnny, and that Polo is just a no-good dumb kid. So Polo has spent his life trying to impress his dad and make his dad care about him,” Dees said. “Polo wants to take care of Johnny, but he can’t take him to a doctor or to the police because they will put him in jail. So Polo does the only thing he can think of — he gives Johnny all of his money to pay for the drugs.”
Johnny’s wife doesn’t know what’s wrong — she assumes he’s having an affair — and Polo has a secret crush on Johnny’s wife.
“So there’s a lot going on,” Dees said. “Basically, the whole story to me is about lies and hiding the truth, and that never works.”
Dees has always been drawn to dramas, she said.
“To have a catharsis in the theater is one of my favorite things — to be moved to tears or anger,” she said. “I’m an actor first and a director second, even though this is my 23rd time directing. And from an actor’s standpoint, you read the script and go, ‘Man, I just want to dig into that.’ It’s just great characters. There’s not a lot of spectacle in this show. Nothing blows up. It’s just watching these relationships unwind amid the truths that come out.’
She thinks the play will resonate with today’s audiences as well because soldiers are still returning home with post-traumatic stress disorders.
“Maybe by watching this, someone will think, ‘Gosh, this has happened before,’ and we can come up with better ways of taking care of the guys that fought for us,” she said.