Lizzie Curry (Sandy York) is a well-read spitfire who is approaching that age at which her prospects will narrow. Fearing the harsh label "old maid," her father (Richard Alan Nichols) and two younger brothers, Noah (William Grey Warren) and Jim (Seth Golay), are determined to get her hitched -- partly because they love her, partly because they don't want to be saddled with her.
The Currys' current target is File, a once-bitten, twice-shy deputy (Martin English) so bereft after a painful divorce that he can't even open his heart to a stray dog. Then, like a tornado, Bill Starbuck (Joe Gately) blows into their lives. He is a frontier huckster pitching tricks to make the rain come, and Lizzie sees right through him -- he's a con artist, but that doesn't mean he can't be put to good use.
If the show is enormously predictable, what keeps it interesting is its alternately effective and crippling direction and design. Del Unruh's set is mostly the interior of a bleached wood farmhouse with a small porch that inexplicably curves upward like the wall of a skateboard park. Other settings include a tack room and the sheriff's office, but they're so ill-defined that actors are constantly walking through or otherwise ignoring the understood walls that should always define a space.
When director Paul Hough has all the bodies onstage at once, logic seems to fly out the window. As File, his boss (Hank Rector) and Starbuck enter the play at about the same time, the actors wander so pell-mell across the boards it's as if the stage has become a bare set; none of them pays attention to the boundaries established earlier. The director and set designer seem to have had a quarrel that has never been resolved, with their clashing sensibilities now appearing in all their ugliness. In smaller scenes, though, such as Lizzie's entrance the morning after she shares a bed with Starbuck, each step is perfectly timed, from her elated gait to her family's rush of anticipation.
The cast members -- except Gately, who is too clownish by half -- settle comfortably into the modest clothes Doug Brown has designed for them and the personas Nash has written. York has the edge of a well-worn piece of pumice, gracefully carrying the audience's sympathies. Nichols is appropriately warm and doting, while Warren skates just this side of villainy with the brutal honesty he inflicts on his sister. Golay, though, is the biggest surprise. He has been good, if a little bland, in Quality Hill cabarets and such shows as Forever Plaid, but here he nails every laugh and blossoms into a credible comedy star.