If you ask me…

- Tom Holehan

 “STEADY RAIN” IS GRITTY & LOUD IN HARTFORD              

There’s a reason Keith Huff’s crime drama, “A Steady Rain”, was a huge Broadway hit a few seasons back…and it has nothing to do with the play.  The two-character, 90 minute police melodrama - currently on stage at Hartford TheaterWorks - had no less than Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig playing two beat-weary cops.  Star power never hurts.

Jackson and Craig were apparently too busy to make the trip to Hartford, but the plucky theatre company has filled their shoes admirable with Kyle Fabel and Aaron Roman Weiner taking on the roles of Joey and Denny, a pair of tough Chicago police officers.  “A Steady Rain” starts with a deafening gun shot as the cops, friends since childhood, both weave a narrative that involves attempted murder, police corruption, drug addiction, pimps, prostitutes, adultery and a serial killer. 

As the story unfolds, bachelor Joey (Fabel) expresses growing concern about the dubious methods of police work that his married, macho friend Denny (Weiner) employs.  Denny isn’t above skimming some cash from a drug deal, enjoying the services of an informant/prostitute or taking the law into his own hands when crime hits home.   Meanwhile, Joey is trying to hide his growing attraction to Denny’s friendly wife.  The scene is set for conflict and this doomed relationship proceeds just about where you think it inevitably will.

There is little in “A Steady Rain” that doesn’t recall earlier, better episodes of “NYPD Blue” or “The Shield”.  It also uses some of the more unsavory aspects of the real-life exploits of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.  The dialogue often crackles with authentic Chicago swagger by the actors and, under Tazewell Thompson’s taut direction, the pace of the play never lags. 

Still, the predictable plot veers into lurid melodrama once too often and, in Mr. Weiner’s performance as the volatile Denny, a little less would have been much more.  His is a strong interpretation, but also one that wears out its welcome sooner than it should.  More layers could have been explored so that Denny doesn’t appear so one-note or his fate so pre-destined.  More successful are the subtleties employed by Mr. Fabel as a man torn between doing the right thing and betraying a lifelong friend.  Fabel is never more effective then when he sits and observes his out-of-control partner in stony silence.  There is also a strong case to be made to the playwright about why these two morally and ethically different men have remained friends for such a long time.

The spare set design by Donald Eastman consists of a few chairs and a pair of battered window blinds and Marcus Doshi’s often harsh lighting sets a menacing tone throughout.  J. Hagenbuckle’s sound design is excellent though Thompson could have dialed down some of the more heavy-handed effects.  This particular slice of pulp fiction needs no further enhancement.

“A Steady Rain” continues at Hartford TheaterWorks through May 8.  For further information or ticket reservations call the theatre box office at: 860.527.7838 or visit: www.theaterworkshartford.org.

Tom Holehan is Co-chairman of the Connecticut Critics Circle and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company.  He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com.  His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

 


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