While Contra Costa County might be experiencing another year of below-average waterfall, it's nothing like the drought endured by the characters in N. Richard Nash's romantic comedy "The Rainmaker."

Town Hall Theatre Company presents the 1930s saga of Lizzie Curry (Caitlin Evenson), her family and fellow residents of the depression-era small town and their desperate need for rain. Just when all seems lost, the mysterious Bill Starbuck (Joel Roster) comes upon the scene. But is he really a rainmaker or just another charlatan looking for a fast buck?

Directed by new artistic director Derrick Silva, the show runs Sept. 12-Oct. 5 at the company's historic Lafayette theater. Call 925-283-1557 or go online to www.townhalltheatre.com.

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    Orinda Starlight Village Players opened "Escape to Bedlam" this past weekend. The fantasy tale involves Edgar Allan Poe's visit to an insane asylum in search of ideas for his tales of mystery and the macabre. Of course, he finds much more than he expects.

    Local playwright and actor Malcolm Cowler adapted Poe's short stories to create the play, which he says "is not for the fainthearted." Performers include Kelly Hanson, Ken Sollazzo, Jill Gelster and Al Guaraglia, with Ian "PJ" Williams as Edgar Allan Poe.

    The show runs Fridays and Saturdays Vbeginning at 8:30 p.m. at the Orinda Community Park Amphitheater. There is a Sunday performance on Sept. 22 at 4 p.m. and a Thursday show on Sept. 26 at 8 p.m. No show on Sept. 20.

    For tickets, call 925-528-9225 or go to www.orsvp.org. Bring a receipt from an Orinda restaurant and receive two regular admissions for the price of one. Receipt must be for the night of the performance.

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    Named one of the "Ten Small Bay Area Theater Companies You Should Know" by the San Jose Mercury News, Butterfield 8 will change its structure in order to continue bringing innovative work to Contra Costa County.

    The company had taken over the lease at Cue Productions Live in Concord several years ago and struggled, like so many small companies, to make the rent each month and meet all the other expenses involved with running a theater. In order to keep the company intact, Butterfield 8 will move from a season structure to a project-by-project format.

    "This will allow us to really focus on one or two projects at a time and bring them to fulfillment without the pressure of keeping a roof over our head," says managing director Maureen Williams. "This will also allow us to do more original works."

    Original leaseholder Carole Davis, who also engineered and built the theater, has agreed to take over the lease, with Butterfield 8 renting it as needed.

    "We may also explore performing in other venues and in other cities, making our productions accessible to additional patrons who might not have been able to attend our shows," adds Williams.

    The company will present George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion" Sept. 19-Oct. 13 directed by John Butterfield. Shaw's barbed attack on the British class system features Donald L. Hardy as Henry Higgins and Becky Potter as Eliza Doolittle, with Ali Arman, Deborah Black, Jake Breckinridge, Alan Cameron, Deborah Doyle, Gary Mutz, Bailie Simpson and Maureen-Theresa Williams.

    Just in time for Halloween, a staged reading of Victorian horror stories titled "Gaslight and Ghost Stories" follows on Oct. 25 and 26. For more information and ticket reservations, call 800-838-3006 or go to www.b8company.com.

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    Attendees at the opening night O'Neill's "Anna Christie," a joint venture with Role Players Ensemble and the Eugene O'Neill Foundation, were surprised at how much humor the show contained, and even a hopeful ending. Definitely must be early O'Neill!

    "Anna Christie" continues through Sept. 21 at the Village Theatre in Danville followed by O'Neill's original version of the Pulitzer Prize winner "Chris Christophersen" Sept. 26-29 at O'Neill's Danville home, Tao House. For tickets to "Anna," call 925-314-3400 or go online to www.roleplayersensemble.com. For "Chris," call 925-820-1818 or go to www.eugeneoneill.org.

    Contact Sally Hogarty at sallyhogarty@gmail.com.