Known for its innovative sets and strong ensemble acting, the San Jose Stage Company lives up to its reputation in a new production of a classic of American theater, The Rainmaker.

Written by N. Richard Nash in the early ’50s, The Rainmaker debuted in New York in 1954 and was made into a 1956 film, starring Burt Lancaster and Katharine Hepburn. Since then, the romantic comedy has seen its share of adaptations—receiving the musical treatment and being revived for a 1999-2000 Broadway run starring Woody Harrelson and Jayne Atkinson. The San Jose Stage Company, which opened its production of The Rainmaker last week, proves itself up to the task of staging the storied play.

The Rainmaker opens to an interesting evocation of a Midwestern farmhouse during the Great Depression: rustic remnants of farm life, a simple dining table, walls of hay. Enter Mr. Curry and his son, the stern and demanding Noah Curry (played by Will Springhorn Jr.), discussing the lingering drought and counting days on the calendar without rain.

Mr. Curry, played by local acting legend Randall King, is the sincere and low-key father, his face weary from years of hardship. Dad and Noah are joined by Jimmy (played by Brandon Leland), the youngest and most excitable son, who recounts his adventurous night with a girl—much to the resentment of his elder brother. A witty and slightly brash conversation takes place between them before Lizzie, the sister, appears, freshly back from a trip that her father had hoped would find her a husband.

Soon, Lizzie’s search for a partner becomes the topic of conversation. The Curry men lament the impending spinsterhood of Lizzie. Played by Allison F. Rich as as a witty, sardonic, sharp and yet immensely insecure woman, Lizzie controls a good portion of the play’s flow. Her increasingly paralyzing fear of the “what-if” is shown through progressively witty and aggressive dialogue, The Curry family continue to scheme on how to find her a worthy husband.

Their first choice is Sheriff File, played by Joe Estlack. The Curry men endeavor to set up their sister with Sheriff File, but fail, leaving Lizzie visibly upset. However, not long after their plan unravels, a man in a crisp, white suit holding a cane appears in their door. He calls himself Bill Starbuck and tells the family that as a professional “rainmaker” he can solve their problems—and in more ways than one, it would seem.

The role of Starbuck, the rainmaker, is haunted by Lancaster’s famous performance, and requires powerful acting. Happily, Johnny Moreno is up to the role.

While the majority of the Curry family—especially Lizzie and Noah—are both unconvinced and suspicious, their father takes a leap of faith and hires Starbuck to work his magic, for a fee of $100. Through his unrelenting charisma, salesmanship and the promise of much-needed rain, Starbuck quickly inserts himself into the lives of the Curry family, convincing each member in turn to take on bizarre tasks—coaxing them to believe not only in his powers, but in their own, as well.

Here the play’s overarching theme makes itself plain. The Rainmaker, is less a tale about a drought or a woman searching for a partner, as it is about a family of individuals trying to find themselves. The play explores the tension that often grows between closely-related adults, the enormous obstacles to achieving personal confidence, and the importance of faith. At the heart of the play is a sense of inexplicable awe and the empowerment that can come from it. Starbuck is the catalyst of this empowerment, bringing the best out of each of life he touches.

In a familiar story that might otherwise have fallen flat on the cynical sensibilities of a modern audience, The Rainmaker is given new life through the powerful, witty and nuanced performances of each of the characters. Even some of the one-liners that were birthed half a century ago still hit their mark, much to the credit of the acting. Only a few of the scenes’ closing lines seemed clichéd, but they can easily be overlooked.

The energy starts to flag a bit in the third act, but all of the actors bring their A-game, helping to carry the play to its conclusion. Johnny Moreno shines particularly bright as a quasi-fire-and-brimstone/motivational speaker/con-man. It’s a showy role, and he makes the best of it. Ultimately, the top-flight ensemble acting gives the play a fast, funny and ultimately poignant narrative. The Rainmaker is yet another winner from the San Jose Stage Company.