Rain Man ****

If you’re going to stage an iconic film, you better have a good reason.  Cashing in on a popular title and using well-known actors may lead to box office gold, but it isn’t a guarantee of artistic success.

The 1988 film Rain Man was an epic road movie that starred two of Hollywood’s greatest legends: Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise.  Hoffman would win world-wide acclaim and take almost every acting award a film actor could win for his portrayal of autistic Raymond, and Cruise impressed many who’d thought he wasn’t capable of turning in a believably deep performance as the hustling and angry younger brother Charlie.

Happily, writer Dan Gordon has given a very good reason for the stage version of Rain Man to exist: to give a better dramatic examination concerning the relationship of the Babbitt brothers.  Gone are all of the road movie clichés and lengthy scenes set on the American highway system and in are three-dimensional dramatic scenes set in hospitals, living rooms and hotels.

The story is actually all about Charlie’s emotional and spiritual redemption from money-grabbing huckster to responsible human being.  He achieves this through bonding with Raymond, the older brother he never knew he had until learning that his father has left his $12 million estate to him.  Charlie’s feeble attempt to weasel money from his brother leads him on a journey of self discovery.

Oliver Chris is very good as Charlie.  He makes a man most would despise into an interesting character, and he makes the emotional change that Charlie takes believable.

But most people’s attention will be on Neil Morrissey’s performance as Raymond.  This will be for two reasons: to see if he’s credible as an autistic man and to compare him with Hoffman.  Thankfully, Morrissey is successful on both counts; his Raymond is very believable and vastly different from Hoffman’s but equally compelling.

Surprisingly funny and very touching, Rain Man makes for good theatre.  It has two excellent performances and an intriguing story.  Most importantly, it is an original experience that is inspired by the film without being a rip-off.

Touring the UK.  Run in Edinburgh and Glasgow is finished.

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