Life & Leisure, Marquee

‘A Hatful of Rain’ debuts June 20 at CAC

MORGANTOWN — Following the packed performances of “Peter and the Starcatcher,” West Virginia Public Theatre brings another piece of Broadway to north-central West Virginia.
Directed by WVPT Artistic Director Jerry McGonigle, “A Hatful of Rain” tells the story of American war hero Johnny Pope as he faces new battles on the home front. Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-June 24 and at 2 p.m. June 24 in the Gladys G. Davis Theatre at the WVU Creative Arts Center.
Michael V. Gazzo’s play premiered on Broadway in 1955, and was adapted into a popular film starring Don Murray and Eva Marie Saint in 1968. The play was groundbreaking in its realistic portrayal of veterans’ issues, opioid abuse, foster care and the effect of those issues on the family.
The play follows a whirlwind two days in the life of Johnny Pope, his pregnant wife Celia, his brother Polo, and their estranged father. During that time, family secrets are laid bare, relationships are tested, and the Popes’ picture-perfect image is shattered forever.
A review of the original Broadway production, written by Brooks Atkinson for the New York Times, calls “A Hatful of Rain” “a play of substance,” and describes the scenes as ranging from “simple and moving” to “almost unbearably powerful.”

“The subject matter is very timely, but the themes of the play are timeless,” said director Jerry McGonigle. “At its core, A Hatful of Rain is about hope, the redemptive power of love, and the reaffirmation that family is our greatest defense.”
This production features a cast of eight who have traveled to Morgantown from opposite ends of the country to be part of this project.
Matt Webster, a New York actor and composer whose professional credits have included national tours of “West Side Story,” will take on the lead role of Johnny Pope.
“It is kind of a homecoming for me, working with Jerry again,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for me to dive into a role that’s really complicated and multi-layered and to learn something about myself as an actor and a person.”
Sadie Bell Freeman, who plays Celia Pope, agrees.
“These are fantastic roles to sink your teeth into as an actor,” she said. She was also moved by the play’s message: “This show deals with things that people don’t want to confront, but for so many people this is their reality. That’s why we need theatre like this, to create a new perspective and increase our passion and understanding.”
She added that it isn’t all doom and gloom.
“The show is very well-balanced with lighthearted moments. We’ll make you laugh, cry and think.”
“A Hatful of Rain” is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc. Tickets are $18-23 and are available online at, at the Mountainlair and CAC box offices, or by calling 304-293-SHOW (7469). Group rates are available by contacting This production is recommended for ages 14 and older.

  • Check out next week’s Marquee for a story focusing on how actors tackled the addiction aspect of “A Hatful of Rain” and its relevance in regard to the current opioid crisis. “A Hatful of Rain” will be presented by West Virginia Public Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-June 24 and 2 p.m. June 24, in the Gladys G. Davis Theatre at the WVU Creative Arts Center.