A SCENT OF RAIN, Bailiwick Repertory. Cute corn pone at its aw-shucksiest, this rural romance by New York playwright Mark Dunn–the final offering in the gay-themed “Pride ’99” series–is a tad long given its predictable end and David Zak’s leisurely staging. But its huge heart is in the right place, and the down-home performances will win over the mildly jaded.

A sort of Six Brides for Seven Brothers, this play depicts the search by a wise father and his strapping straight sons for a “man-wife” for the “special”–that is, gay–son Jonathan. Their desperately improvised attempts at matchmaking produce a miserable date with an escaped convict and a happier one with a good-hearted drag queen. But as it turns out Jonathan has felt a lifelong ardor for Bill Tom, the family’s hired hand.

A Scent of Rain features not only a story so sappy it begs to be remade into a camp musical but the odd combination of supposedly innocent hayseed characters and occasional shameless winking at the audience. When Nicholas Conlon’s Jonathan grins at us as he’s carried off in the well-muscled arms of Bill Tom (ex-porn star Ryan Idol), the auditorium suddenly shrinks to a peephole, even though the nudity is not glaringly gratuitous. Happily, Idol reinvents gay love with a first kiss and brings a burly grace to the confused bisexual Bill Tom. Good work also comes from Danne Taylor as the kind, broad-minded father and from David Divita in a host of supporting roles.

–Lawrence Bommer