Story: Denny and Joey have been best friends since kindergarten. The two Catholic kids, probably from one of the poorer neighborhoods in Chicago, grew up to become police officers, members of Chicago’s finest. Years of working the streets have hardened Denny, who is married and has two young sons and is prone to fits of testosterone-laced rants, as well as Joey, a lonely bachelor who seeks refuge in a bottle when he isn’t being ridiculed by Denny because of his lifestyle. Both men twice have been passed over for the coveted job of detective, which Joey surmises has more to do with racial quotas than their own abilities.
Their lives change abruptly when they’re brought before Internal Affairs to explain their actions which led to the death of a young man. As they recount the story, Denny was seeking revenge against a pimp who had shot at his house, breaking window glass that severed an artery in Denny’s infant son’s neck. While the boy is in critical condition at a local hospital, Denny pursues the villainous Walter Lorenz, who regularly assaults a prostitute whom Denny often patronizes in exchange for ‘favors.’ The two cops come across a naked and delirious teen whom they promptly return to his ‘uncle,’ which leads to murder and brings them up to account for their actions. With their personal and professional lives unraveling, the two lifelong pals find themselves battling for survival.
Highlights: Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig set box-office records on Broadway in 2009 for their portrayals of two highly flawed police officers in this harrowing, haunting and dark one-act drama by playwright Keith Huff. Huff premiered his award-winning effort in his home town of Chicago in 2007, alluding to the grisly horrors of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and also bringing to mind another psychopath, John Wayne Gacy, as background for his intense, psychological story. Like many works that deal with the moral ambiguity of desensitized cops (Internal Affairs, The New Centurions), Huff’s harrowing story shows how the relentless pressures of the job -- a steady rain – ultimately can wear down the best intentions of any idealistic public protector.
Other Info: Rep artistic director Steven Woolf masterfully paces this taut, tingling and terrifying tale of two men caught in a precipitously downward spiral. The one act plays out over some 95 minutes, yet it never bogs down, thanks to the steady guidance of Woolf and the gripping performances of Joey Collins and Michael James Reed as the tortured officers.
Huff alternates banter between the two friends – sometimes jovial, oftentimes caustic and incendiary -- with monologues delivered by each to the unseen Internal Affairs team that grills them about the facts behind the fatal incident. The shift in presentation styles allows both actors to explore different dimensions of their roles and more fully flesh out the characters. Both men do so in exemplary fashion as they depict Denny and Joey moving emotionally in opposite directions, one consumed with a muddled quest for revenge while the other is drawn by a quietly understated love toward the light of possible redemption.
Robert Mark Morgan’s stark and squalid scenic design is accentuated by the drab and dreary surroundings of a police interrogation room comprised of a shabby table and chairs and some dingy walls badly in need of paint. Peter Sargent’s shrewd, perceptive lighting underscores the depressing locale with an occasional reference to the garish and gritty urban background that Denny and Joey attempt to control seen through occasionally opened window blinds.
Dorothy Marshall Englis dresses the characters in subtly different fashion, Joey in button-down shirt and khakis contrasting with the more temperamental Denny’s tight jeans and leather jacket, while Rusty Wandall’s sound emphasizes that ongoing moisture offset by a shriek of rock music at pivotal moments.
The climax of A Steady Rain is sobering and arresting, but a logical conclusion to the tale that Huff weaves as inexorably as the title suggests, as truth and consequences yield their just desserts.
Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Group: Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Venue: Emerson Studio Theatre, Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road
Dates: Through February 5 Tickets: $45-$58; contact 968-4925 or repstl.org
Photos courtesy of Jerry Naunheim Jr.