A Steady Rain -- Riveting Personal Drama but Clichéd

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By Bob and Karen Isaacs

While you are watching A Steady Rain now at TheaterWorks in Hartford through May 8, you will be riveted by the story playing out in front of you. At times you will stunned and at others times upset.

Only afterwards will you have some quibbles about this piece by Keith Huff -- an up-and-coming Chicago dramatist who has worked extensively at the Eugene O'Neill Center in Waterford.

A Steady Rain is about two Chicago veteran streetwise cops -- neither a stellar example of the force -- who have been lifelong buddies and what happened during a few days of steady rain that changed their lives.

Denny, played by Aaron Roman Weiner, is the more dominant and volatile of the partners. He's married with two children and a home, but he is also an angry man prone to expressing his prejudices and has a tendency to explode into violence. In the name of providing and protecting his family, he has long since crossed the line into corruption.

Joey, played by Kyle Fabel, is his childhood friend; he's single, and a recovering alcoholic. He is now more in control of his life and his actions working hard to become a detective. Joey has dinner most nights with Debby and his unseen family though Denny keeps setting Joey up with totally unsuitable women, including a hooker Denny has befriended.

The lives of these two men begin to unravel after someone takes a shot through the window of Denny's home, wounding his 2-year-old son. Denny spins out of control.

A Steady Rain, directed well by Tazewelll Thompson, features more alternating recollections than dialogue. Even when the two actors speak to each other, it is not really a conversation. Each tells what happens from his individual perspective.

We saw this play in the fall of 2009 on Broadway when Hugh Jackman played Denny and Daniel Craig played Joey. They were spectacular, and for us the two TheaterWorks performers were going to have a difficult task reaching those standards.

They do for the most part, though their (and Thompson's) interpretation of the roles are quite different.  Weiner as Denny doesn't have the magnetism of Jackman; it is harder to see why Joey is so loyal to him and has put up with his abuse all these years. But Weiner does capture the tightly-coiled anger in Joey and the violence just a hair's breadth away.

Fabel's Joey is not as reserved and buttoned down as Craig's was, but he captures Joey's ambivalence towards Denny and his growth to independent action.  Fabel, perhaps, makes you care even more about Joey -- a flawed but compassionate person.
You can quibble with some of the direction and even the accents. Joey seems at times more Brooklyn then Chicago.  And afterwards as you think about the play you may feel that it is more than a little melodramatic. This is less a "slice of life" than a story that throws in many clichés about morally corrupt cops and their lives.

Yet, you will find this play riveting and disturbing; the two performances are well worth seeing. Be advised, though, that the language is not for tender ears and the subject matter isn't either.

A Steady Rain is at TheaterWorks Hartford, 233 Pearl St. in Downtown Hartford, through May 8. For tickets and information call 860-527-7838 or online at theaterworkshartford.org.


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