The Village Theatre Guild of Glen Ellyn, never prone to shy away from staging works that reflect the grittier side of life, is presenting Michael V. Gazzo's "A Hatful of Rain" beginning Friday, March 22.
Written with the Group Theatre in 1955, "A Hatful of Rain" was one of the first plays to tackle the social menace of drug addiction and its impact on the family unit. The play also touched on the concept of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder before it had a name.
The story focuses on a young Korean War veteran, Johnny Pope, whose terrible injuries have made him dependent on drugs. His habits and secrecy lead his pregnant wife, Celia, to suspect an affair.
Johnny's devoted brother, Polo, has unintentionally made Johnny sicker by funding his drug habit. Polo's enabling also inadvertently alienates their hard-nosed father, who has come to borrow money he believes Polo can loan him for a business venture.
Further complicating the situation is Polo's attraction to Celia, and the menacing neighborhood drug dealers who threaten Johnny with dire consequences if he cannot pay what he owes them. The complications lead to an explosive mix of horror, tension and drama that pulls no punches.
"The dynamic of the family relationships is what first attracted me to this script," says director Jeni Dees of South Elgin.
"As I dug in further, I saw how everyone was lying and hiding something. They thought that if the truth came out, it would hurt the ones they love. In fact, the lying was hurting much more than the truth.
"Add the drama of Johnny's PTSD, and the fact that Gazzo addressed it in a time when it was either not talked about or was swept under a rug, and you have a theater piece that is very compelling."
The cast includes Garrett Ard of Naperville as Johnny Pope; Ed Perry of Aurora as Polo Pope; Jennifer Bartolo of Chicago as Celia Pope; Tom Viskocil of Woodridge as John Pope Sr.; Greg Dvorak of Oak Park as Mother; Ron Neurater of Carol Stream as Apples; Tim Ahlberg of Oak Park as Church; and Jessica Keith of Brookfield as Putski.
Maggie Fredricks of Glen Ellyn produces, Jo-Ann Ledger of Bolingbrook assistant directs, and Renata Allelujka of Downers Grove and Dianne Wawrzyniak of Rolling Meadows co-stage manage.
Performances are Fridays through Sundays, March 22-24 and 29-30; Thursday to Sunday, April 4-7; and Friday to Sunday, April 11-13. Shows are at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased by calling the Village Theatre Guild Box Office at (630) 469-8230.
The Village Theatre Guild is located on the northwest corner of Park Boulevard and Butterfield Road in Glen Ellyn. For details, visit villagetheatreguild.org.