‘Rain on Fire’ play showcases painful impact of opioid crisis on a family

FLINT, Michigan — It’s a crisis all over the nation, and unfortunately, one that hits home for many Flint residents, too. Michigan native playwright Karen Saari is all too familiar with the devastation the opioid crisis has on families because it is embedded in her memories of growing up. Her new drama, Rain on Fire had its world premiere Sept. 15, and continues now through Oct. 1 at the FIM Flint Repertory Theatre

‘Rain on Fire’ focuses on Marie, who comes home to help plan her mother’s funeral. The late addict left a wish for her family to fulfill, resulting in an emotional, tense, maddening, yet sometimes humorous journey showcasing the opioid crisis in the rural woods of Northern Michigan. 

Flint Rep Producing Artistic Director Michael Lluberes says this complex family drama is full of twists and turns, and even some laughs. 

“The play shines a light on people who don’t normally get stories told about them,” he says in a press release. “It takes a deep dive into one family’s journey of addiction and grief. We’re thrilled to share this Michigan story with a Michigan audience.”

Bello Paolo Pizzimenti and Sarah Price star in the stageplay ‘Rain on Fire,' running now through Oct. 1 at the FIM Flint Repertory Theatre.
For playwright Karen Saari, the story is taken directly out of her life in the Upper Peninsula.

“Much like Marie, I too was an only child grieving my parents who died within a couple years of each other,” she says in an interview with Flinside. “My mother was not a pill addict but had several health issues in the months leading to her death. I was processing that and also reconnecting with my hometown. Meth and opioid use was rampant and was featured regularly in the local and regional news. I was struck by the range of people who had fallen prey to drugs, from teens to grandparents.” 

Given the widespread impacts of the current opioid crisis, it’s likely that many audience members know someone or deal personally with addiction and the aftermath. In a broader sense, Saari says the show is also relatable because of its focus on another element of life, which is ultimately, death. 

Jazmine Kuyayki Broe and Sarah Price star in the stageplay ‘Rain on Fire,' running now through Oct. 1 at the FIM Flint Repertory Theatre.“The Midwest was hit hard by the opioid crisis — it still is,” Saari says. “Even if you were not directly impacted, you likely know someone who was. My hope is that this play will unlock doors to understanding what might motivate someone to turn to these drugs. Also, it's not ‘a play about the opioid crisis.’ At its core, it's a play about the complexity of grief — something we can all relate to.”

Directed by Ted Schneider, the poignant show stars Mark Gmazel, Jazmine Kuyayki Broe, Kevin O’Callaghan, Bello Paolo Pizzimenti, Sarah Price, and Karen Sheridan. Original music is provided by Danielle Anderson of Danielle Ate The Sandwich.

Sarah Price and Bello Paolo Pizzimenti star in the stageplay ‘Rain on Fire,' running now through Oct. 1 at the FIM Flint Repertory Theatre.“I'm beyond thrilled to see these actors play the characters in ‘Rain on Fire,’” says Saari. “Four of them — Mark, Karen, Bello, and Kevin — were also in the 2022 New Works Festival reading so they have been exploring them for several months now. Sarah and Jazmine are welcome additions. Sarah Price captures the tension, anger, and humor of Marie.”

The humor is an important part of the process, according to Saari, and also an intended byproduct of the production. 

“I hope audiences feel surprised and moved, and that the characters' humanity helps them understand a person or community they maybe haven't considered much before,” she says. “I also hope they laugh! There's lots of humor in it too!”

Due to language, the show is suggested for adults. ‘Rain on Fire’ runs from now until Oct. 1. Tickets are available online, at the FIM Ticket Center box offices at FIM Whiting Auditorium and FIM Capitol Theatre, or by calling 810-237-7333. Genesee County Residents can save 30% on their tickets. 
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Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.