“When drought hits the lush grasslands of the richly fertile west, they are green no more and the dying is a palpable thing. what happens to the verdure and vegetation, to cattle and livestock can be read in the coldly statistical little bulletins freely issued by the Department of Agriculture. What happens to the people of the west--beyond the calculable and terrible phenomena of sudden poverty and loss of substance--is an incalculable and febrile kind of desperation. Rain will never come again; the earth will be sere forever; and in all of heaven, there is no promise of remedy.
Yet, men of wisdom like H. C. Curry know to be patient with heaven. They know that the earth will not thirst forever; they know that one day they will again awaken to a green morning. Young people like Lizzie, his daughter, cannot know this as certainly as he does. Bright as she is, she cannot know. She can only count the shooting stars, and hope.
The play is set in such a drought-beset region in the moment when Lizzie’s hope is faltering. Because the hopes of LIzzie and H.C., of im and Starbuck and FIle are finally brought to blessing, because the people of the play are deserving and filled with love of one another--and most important, because it is not always that the hopes of deserving, loving human beings are blessed--this play is a comedy and it is a romance. It must never be forgotten that it is a romance, never for an instant by the director, the actors, the scenic designer or the least-sung usher in the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia.
In this regard there must be, without eschewing truth, a kind of romantic beauty in the relationships of all the characters with one another. Especially so in the Curry family, even when Noah is laying down the stern law of a rigid God who, to Noah, looks rather like an irate Certified Public Accountant. There must be love in the house, or somewhere a benign promise.
This same felicity in the sets. True, the Curry ranch house--the living and dining rooms, the kitchen--is a place where people scratch their heads and take their shoes off, where woodwork has to be scrubbed and pots scoured. But more important, it is a place where beauty is made out of affection and all manner of gentleness. The tack room, if seen realistically, might be a dust bin attractive only to the termites and the rodents of the night. But if the designer sees it romantically--as Lizzie might see it, with all its memorabilia of childhood--it will tell the hopeful promise intended. Or file’s office--it is not an office really, although File’s rolltop desk is there and his old fashioned telephone--it is File’s secret hiding place from the world, the island where he errantly believes he can bring balm to his loneliness.
Despite the mention of many playing areas, it is essential that this be a one-set play. The center stage area should be the house--the living room or “parlor” as they called it in those days, combined with dining and kitchen areas into one large playing space, taking up perhaps half the stage. Down right, File’s office, approximately a quarter of the stage--and down left, the tack room, the remaining quarter. It is essential that it be a one-set play--not for reasons of production economy, although economies will fortuitously flow from it--but because the designer can best serve the unity intended if the visual effects seem to be closely related and unified. And in the same regard--to avoid time separations as well as spatial ones--there must be no lowering of a curtain between scenes--merely a dimming of light in one area and a lift in light in another.
If there is incidental music in the play, it should sing on the romantic instruments and forswear brass and tympani. It should lament on strings and woodwinds and promise sweet melody.
Perhaps the best rule of thumb in direction, acting, scenery, music is this oversimplification: Let us not use the panoramic lenses. Let us focus closely, but through a romantically gauzed lense, on the face of Lizzie’s loneliness, and on her hope. Life can be seen deeply through small lenses. And truthfully even through gauze.”