The Art of Racing in the Rain at Harlequin Productions

by Ned Hayes for OLY ARTS

In March, Harlequin Productions will bring to the stage “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” a play based on Garth Stein’s New York Times bestselling novel. The show will run at Harlequin from March 1 to 24.

“The Art of Racing in the Rain” has a unique narrator: a dog named Enzo. The dog carefully observes human behavior and his philosophical ponderings are hilarious, insightful and poignant. Enzo’s master Denny Swift is an up-and-coming race car driver, and together they share driving experiences and life together. A heart-wrenching but deeply funny story, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” is an absurd and captivating story of human foibles and triumphs… from a dog’s point of view.

Yet on the Harlequin stage, the dog won’t be wearing a costume, and the role is not necessarily played for laughs. “Because Enzo establishes his relationship with us from the get go as a thinking and philosophical canine being, we buy in and engage with him,” said director Linda Whitney. “Enzo is telling us his story and he has our respect. There’s humor, but it’s earned.”

This unique book was published over 10 years ago, and has been read by over 4 million people worldwide. To date, the story has been translated into 38 languages. Film and theatrical rights for “The Art of Racing in the Rain” have also been acquired by Universal Studios, so the version at Harlequin had to receive special permission from Universal. Harlequin might even be the next step towards a larger audience: “I’m very happy Harlequin is doing this production, as I think the story really lends itself to the stage,” said author Garth Stein. “I’d love to see this story go on to Broadway.”

This is only the second time that “The Art of Racing in the Rain” has been presented on stage. The show was first adapted for the stage by Myra Platt in Seattle, and appeared on stage at Book-It Repertory Theatre in Seattle in 2012. Harlequin’s production follows Platt’s version, which regularly breaks the fourth wall, to have Enzo speak to the audience.

“The adaptation at Book-It was fabulous,” said Stein. “And I’m really pleased that Harlequin is working from the same script.”

Xander Layden and John Serembe
Xander Layden and John Serembe will also appear in “The Art of Racing in the Rain” (photo from past Harlequin Stardust production)

Whitney agrees that the script is strong, but she credits the ensemble of actors with carrying the weight of the story. “We’ve already built a strong ensemble for this show,” said Whitney. “Everyone has to work uniformly hard to keep this show on track. But I will say that I definitely look forward to seeing Xander Layden embody Enzo.” Other actors of note in the production include Evan Sullivan as race-car driver Denny Smith, Michael Christopher, and John Serembe in a variety of roles.

“I am thrilled that [Harlequin] is doing a new theater production,” said Stein. “I love live theater, I grew up in it, and I love theater’s immediacy. It is so much fun to make magic with an audience. Any time this play is done, I would rush to see it.”

Author Stein will be attending the opening night of the Harlequin production in Olympia.

WHAT: The Art of Racing in the Rain

WHEN: March 1 – March 24, 2018;
Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:00 pm, Sunday matinees at 2:00 pm

WHERE: Harlequin Productions, 202 4th Avenue East, Downtown Olympia 98501

HOW MUCH: $20-$35
(Rush Tickets available at Box Office 30 minutes prior to curtain)

LEARN MORE: 360-786-0151 | Harlequin Productions