Review: VTG’s A Hatful of Rain

By: Michael V. Gazzo
Location: Wheaton Drama
Director: Jeni Dees

Now, let’s be honest, I really wasn’t planning on going to see this show at all… I didn’t have the time (all things considered) and I didn’t want to watch a post-war drama about soldiers living with PTSD and trying to survive. Why? It’s not because I’m heartless… it is because I have seen and read many of those stories from friends who were deployed and their extended circles.

But since a friend of mine wanted to go… I carved out a timeslot in my crazy schedule and went with her.

So… this was an interesting show, tugs at the heartstrings at moments… though in a different way and there are moment that are so comedic that you can’t help but laugh.

However at the core of it all is the young man from war who has been hiding a drug addiction from all those who love him except one.

First the quickie thoughts:
Acting: Like
Staging: Like

So what now? What is there to say?

This story of a young man who was terribly injured in the Korean War provides a look at drug addiction through the eyes of society in 1955, and how it can tear a family apart or bring them together. This emotional drama can be related to soldiers of today with PTSD.


When John Pope – portrayed by Garrett Ard – finds himself in need of another drug dose he switches back and forth between the life on the battlefield the life that surrounds him. Detached from reality, as he sinks more and more into the world on the battlefield he loses himself in the past unable to escape.

Walking the tightrope of being there and not there, to be detached and yet in the moment at the wrong moment (gee, I’m not making any sense am I?) is not easy and yet Garrett does this with such abandon that you can’t help but want to help, but unsure as to how.

John’s only grounding point is in the form of his brother – Polo Pope as played by Edward Perry. He has seen Johnny at his best, and at his worst. Polo knows more than he is letting on, and is willing to stand up and help his brother hide his addiction even if it means taking on the brunt of his father’s wrath.

Throughout all this Edward finds a way to realistically portrayed the devoted brother and son and yet despising the cards given to him because of the secrets that are being hidden. However, some of Edward’s shining moments came in his opening scene as he walks in drunk and goes on and on and on about nothing and everything. Even I had to crack a smile.

Jennifer Bartolo is Celia Pope, John’s wife…. and being completely in the dark she wants the life with John that she remembers pre-war and finds herself with someone that she knows nothing about. Finding herself pulled further and further away from the man she loves she gives in to surrender for a moment before realising that what she needs to is to keep fighting for her husband.

Completing this family quartet is Tom Viskocil as John Pope Sr… an imposing man who looks at John as the favorite and Polo as the bastard. However, this is perhaps part of the times where the only connection with one’s son is by treating them like a man and as thus when a son looks for affection they are shunned.

I remember thinking throughout the production how much I wanted scenes with John Pope Sr to be over with because he was becoming overbearing until I realized… that is his character… that is the kind of father his children grew up with and were distant from. The fact that Tom disappeared into his character to the point that I didn’t want to deal with him is a testament to his talent.

On the other side of the fence were a trio of goons led by Greg Dvorak (Mother), Ron Neurauter (Apples) and Tim Ahlberg (Chuch)… to provide the balance of how life can be for a junkie. What possible dangers and issues a junkie faces just for a moment to feel a high, normal, or escape from their demons.

Though for me personally they disappeared a little too quickly via the semi-“deux ex machina” in the form of Jessica Keith (Putski)… but that’s just me.

The acting for the most part was respectable… though the chemistry between Celia and either brother seemed to be lacking. I could sense the desperation within herself of finding love, affection, etc as she carries the unborn child of her husband… but I suppose because the audience is brought into the story right before Johnny reveals his addiction I didn’t feel any fight from her for her husband.

However, the chemistry between brothers is palpable… you know that Polo knows more about Johnny than meets the eye and you know that Johnny appreciates Polo more than he lets on. Johnny’s guilt of putting Polo in the position that he is in with their father is not just noticeable but heartfelt.

By extension I really loved the family dynamic between the father (John Pope Sr) and his two sons (John Jr and Polo).

Overall, I enjoyed the production… giving a semi-realistic look at how war affects soldiers and the aftermath. With only two nights left of this production one better get their tix soon to see this little gem before it disappears into the sunset.

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