A Steady Rain - New York theater
A Steady Rain by Keith Huff
Directed by John Crowley
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre,
236 West 45th St., NY
Sept 12 In preview: opening September 29th, 2009
New York, NY. Two men seated on an otherwise empty stage - the playing space surrounded by black drapes, briefly opened to reveal tall buildings on either side of a dark alley, or briefly lluminated to create the illusion of a forest. No props, no fancy set, nothing to draw our attention away from the two Chicago beat cops, relating the events of a summer when the rain poured incessantly and the world as they knew it came crashing down on them.
A Steady Rain runs about 90 minutes without intermission, and I was mesmerized for the entire time. The play is still in preview, which started two days ago, but Daniel Craig (Joey) and Hugh Jackman (Denny) produced outstanding performances, worthy of Keith Huff's well crafted script. The play was directed by John Crowley, whose work I last saw in the 2005 Broadway production of Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman.
Denny and Joey have been friends since childhood. Now they are partners, patrolling the streets of Chicago and standing back to back against the enemy on the streets; drug dealers, gangster, pimps. Sadly for them, times have changed - affirmative action quota systems govern promotion - words they grew up with are now considered politically incorrect or racist - and the "enemy" against whom they must stand together, includes their captain and the police department bureaucracy.
Ironically Joey, who is unmarried and has no family to protect, is the more cautious of the pair, and tries to conform to expectations. Denny, who is married with two children and a nice house, is wild, impetuous, and can't understand the logic of the changes he sees around him. How these two men see, interpret and react to the events that unfold around them is the essence of this play, told in interwoven monologues. Craig and Jackman have a strong chemistry as they portray these lifelong friends and patrol partners. You can almost feel the testosterone exuding from the stage. I also found it impressive that a Brit and an Aussie, experienced actors though they are, could sustain the Chicago cop accents throughout the piece without once missing a beat.
To reveal anything of the story would diminish the impact of this play but Huff uses the events to consider much deeper issues that are relevant not only to policemen but to anyone who has felt undervalued or misjudged in their work. The same people that expect the police to put their own lives on the line to protect the public against gangsters, thugs and other criminals, are the first to want to crucify them when things don't unfold as expected. We expect someone facing a crazed person, who may or may not be armed with anything from a glass shard to a gun, to make the right split second decision one hundred percent of the time. It is not reasonable to expect that every choice will be the right one. Although Huff drew his inspiration from events in certain US cities, the post hoc second guessing and attacks on local police is as prevalent in my home town.
A Steady Rain premiered in Chicago last year. I note that it is the first of his trilogy of Chicago cop plays - he has recently finished The Detective's Wife and Tell us of The Night. Can't wait to see those in production. In the meantime if you can get a ticket to the limited Broadway run of this play, go for it. It was well worth seeing.
I heard comments in the line-up that tickets were hard to come by for the actual run, which perhaps explains why I have found it impossible to find contact information for the publicists for this play. Hence the picture of the theatre marquis rather than a photo from the production.
On every other show I have seen so far, God of Carnage, The Retributionists, Burn the Floor, the box office was able to give me a phone number to contact the publicist for a production photo - but at the Gerald Schoenfeld box-office they were not only unhelpful but also uninterested in helping.
From Google I learned that the press representative firm opened a new office here in June but no amount of Googling could find me a phone number or email to use. Too bad. Thr play was great anyway.