For most theaters, “A Hatful of Rain” might be a little bit of a stretch in terms of content, but taking risks and bringing unique performances to the stage is something Village Theatre Guild of Glen Ellyn does on a regular basis. It’s no different for the newest production, directed by VTG newcomer Jeni Dees of South Elgin.
“I’ve always wanted to direct here, because they put the art and creativity first,” Dees says. “It’s a very small theater, so it’s not like they’re focused on picking the almighty dollar and picking the shows that will sell well. They trust the directors to pick (the) pieces.”
“A Hatful of Rain” is set in 1955, and focuses on Johnny Pope, a Korean War veteran who's returned home. Injured during the war, he was put on morphine, a habit he can't kick. His hidden addiction — coupled with relationship problems with his wife, and money issues with his brother — evolves into a crazy whirlwind of a life that draws disapproval from his father.
“It’s kind of a soap opera with so many different story levels,” Dees says. “It’s clearly a drama. The thing is that there is so much about the character relationships, which is what drew me to the show in the first place.”
Woodridge actor Tom Viskocil plays John Pope Sr., the father who further complicates the family dynamic. His problems include a son addicted to drugs and another son who promises him money and backs out. It’s not exactly something everyone has to deal with throughout their lifetime, so Viskocil has found himself drawing some traits from people he knows in real life.
“I’ve never actually had any family or relatives involved in drugs or addiction at all, but the script appealed to me,” Viskocil says. “I got the guy. I could hear him speaking. I’ve known so many people like him — my father was even somewhat like him.”
Many of the story's themes still resonate.
“You can take this and plug it into modern day,” Dees says. “It’s something you can relate to today — even though it is set in 1955.”
The script by Michael Gazzo was groundbreaking at the time. It addressed post-traumatic stress disorder before it even had a name, as well as drug addiction and family issues affecting returning veterans.
“I had teachers that were in Vietnam and uncles that were in World War II,” Dees says. “They don’t talk about it. It was a different time. Even nowadays, it’s something that doesn’t get talked about. I’m hoping we can shed a little bit of light on these situations, along with the relationships that go along with them.”
See the play
What: "A Hatful of Rain" delves into post-war issues affecting a family
Where: Village Theatre Guild, Park Boulevard and Butterfield Road, Glen Ellyn
When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays, April 4 and 11, and 3 p.m. Sunday,
April 7, now through April 13
Cost & info: $18, 630-469-8230; www.villagetheatreguild.org