Monday, February 4, 2013
Theater review: Life struggles culminate between two policemen in A Steady Rain
The question is how Joey and Denny will deal.
IRVING There’s a common thread that underlies police stories. Regardless of crime and pursuit, there is a constant drama between cop partners. These marriages made in police precincts are often rocky, and the stories told through their struggles tell a more important story than the crimes. Often closer than a partner’s real wife, their need to maintain trust (dare we say love) mirror the real fights of real marriages. We can’t fully understand this relationship if we’re not cops but we get a glimpse into the lives of cops by comparing their relationships to our own.
Denny and Joey are cops in A Steady Rain, playing now at ICT Theatre On The Edge in Irving. The only two characters, these friends from early in their childhood are caught in a dysfunctional partnership in the Chicago Police Department and must deal with their failings individually and their failures as professionals and the effects they have on the ones they love and the ones they serve. The struggles are titanic.
Keith Huff has created a gritty, intense violent play which cuts through all the extraneous subplots and goes right for the real story. How will these two cops survive as their world crashes in and everything they love is taken away and everything they believe is challenged? Can they endure a summer of relentless steady rain?
Director Ashley H. White created a framework in which the characters delivered their monologues, punctuated by dialog, while ranging around the black box space of ICT Studio. With minimal setting, the story unfolded with the help of lighting and a projection that highlighted Chicago.
Abby Kipp designed a set that used the theater’s brick back wall, a metallic interview table and street graffiti on one side of the stage area. A metallic mirror hung on the wall serving as a projection screen where scenes showing Chicago were played. With such a small stage, the lighting scheme by Michael Ramey had to be very tight to put one character in the dark while the other spoke just a few feet away or to move the scene to another location, also just a few feet away.
White’s sound design consisted of original music by local composer Adam C. Wright. Wright’s music combined familiar pieces with major re-arrangements to set a tone for this story. One or two pieces sounded more original but none were identified or appeared to be available. The second act entr’acte music set to a short video of Chicago life by Eric Hines produced a strong atmosphere to prepare for violent stories to come.
A Steady Rain is an actor’s play. With very little action, minimal set and two actors onstage the entire time, the power of Huff’s themes came from two running monologues, woven together, told independently at times, but interrupted by periods of dialog. The effect was that they slipped frequently between past and present, between separate memories and current action, with ease. At the time it was hard to know for sure what time period they were in, but as their stories unfolded it became clear.
Shane Beeson played a quiet Joey, a lifelong single with nothing but his love for his partner, Denny, and their friendship since childhood. Joey was thoughtful, a studied analyzer, though his education came from the streets and his friend. Beeson imbued Joey with the quality of a reluctant hero fighting his way through his journey to find humanity inside him while trying to make sense of his world.
Scott Nixon created Denny as a caricature of the Chicago beat cop - Italian, gruff, hot-headed, and singular in his need to protect his own family from the streets, often by hurting them. But the complexity of his thinking and a deeply-hidden humanity came out in his stories. Nixon gave Denny many layers of motivation which slowly unfolded as each was peeled away by the horrors in his life. These partners were contrasted in every way, but their cop love, the powerful relationship between partners, was palpable. “Back to Back! You get my back, I’ll get yours.” They might have also said, “I will trust you with my life and take a bullet if I have to.”
Joey and Denny were deeply flawed and their stories revealed these raw emotional sores, Joey in his quiet analytical way, Denny in a loud boisterous, disbelieving way. Their stories showed the unraveling of their lives and careers and how that affected the people they loved as the steady rain fell relentlessly through the summer and all they held dear was threatened and damaged.
There was humor in this tragedy, especially in the frequent absurdities of Denny’s racism and bigotry. It was funny in the way many of us laughed at Archie Bunker many years ago, or more recent examples.
The ending was both surprising and not, after all the hell they endured. Each partner had to make choices to give up desires and let go of stubborn, long-held beliefs. Each had to answer the question Director White wrote in her playbill notes, “What are you willing to do to survive when everything you love is taken away?”
This was not a show for everyone, though the themes are universal. This was not a show for youth or anyone sensitive to racism or bigotry or the hard realities of urban street life. But if you want to see a powerful piece of tragic drama delivered in a direct and powerful way, take time to see A Steady Rain at ICT On The Edge.
Pegasus News Content partner - John Garcia's The Column
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