BWW Reviews: A STEADY RAIN Examines the Special Bonds of Male Friendship
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble presents the Los Angeles premiere of A STEADY RAIN, the Broadway smash hit by Keith Huff, directed by Steppenwolf Theatre co-founder Jeff Perry with a clear understanding of the love and pain embodied in real friendship.
A STEADY RAIN is first and foremost a story about Denny and Joey, two Chicago cops caught up in a series of violent events that alter the course of their lives and their understanding of the world they inhabit. The play is also an exploration of the special bonds of male friendship, and the forces that test those bonds.
Both cops are bitter they have passed over for promotion to detective, longing to leave the street beat. Their inner need to serve and protect consumes them - and also rips them apart. Thomas Vincent Kelly plays Joey, the more "modern" thinking cop, who pushes his partner Denny (Sal Viscuso) to clean up his act and stop using racial slurs when dealing with people while on the job.
In return, Denny has opened his home to Joey, encouraging him to give up drinking and lead a more fulfilling personal life, even though Denny's own marriage is full of secrets and infidelities. Turns out these secrets are not so secret when it comes to Denny's dealings with street hookers and drug dealers, accepting money and favors in exchange for protection. But his wife is willing to look the other way, until Joey tells her the truth and she realizes which of the two men really loves her and wants to be with only her.
The lifelong friendship of these two diametrically different partners on the force is put to the test when a deadly error of judgment sends their lives spinning out of control during a driving rain storm. Their narration of the situation moves back and forth in time at a lightening pace, moving from dialogue to monologue with the actors often addressing the audience directly.
"Keith has created an inexorable tragedy that's very Shakespearean about two guys who have the best of intentions," says Perry. "The narrative emerges out of a chaotic stewpot of events, yet it's all perfectly clear and highly authentic. It's a beautiful thing - a very sophisticated, deft and unique piece of storytelling."
Thomas Vincent Kelly was raised in Chicago, but Sal Viscuso is a native New Yorker although you would never know it given his impeccable Chicago accent and attitude. Viscuso plays Denny as more of a caricature, albeit an outstanding one, while Kelly's Joey is a more realistic person, the kind of caring Midwesterner who will always put his family first - and although it takes him awhile to find the right person, we know his commitment to her is more secure.
Set and video design for A STEADY RAIN are by Adam Flemming, lighting design is by Michael Gend and sound design is by John Zalewski. The three large video screens visually take us from scene to scene, most effective when used as windows from which we look out on the city through the cascade of raindrops on the panes.
Performances of A Steady Rain continue at the Odyssey through May 11, with performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. (dark April 11-13, Thursday, May 8 and Saturday, May 10, with one additional performance on Sunday, May 11 at 7 p.m.). All tickets are $30.
The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 or go to www.OdysseyTheatre.com.