A Chicago crime drama comes to Milwaukee
A detective drama, inspired by the Dahmer case, born in Chicago, staged on Broadway, in its Milwaukee debut.
It’s not especially surprising to see A Steady Rain come into Milwaukee this weekend at Next Act Theatre. The award-winning show is about two police officers whose error in judgment puts a young man back into the hands of a Dahmer-esque serial killer. It got its start just south of the border, in Chicago, and it’s been staged dozens of times around the world, including a stint on Broadway with Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman as the stars.
Its arrival in Milwaukee was, in a certain sense, inevitable. But we get a bonus no audience outside of Chicago has had yet: A full revival featuring the original cast and creative team, assembled by producers known as the Chicago Commercial Collective.
Brian Loevner, the managing director of Chicago Dramatists, which initially staged A Steady Rain, is one of the three partners in the venture. He created the Collective to give high-quality Chicago shows a chance to live beyond their original runs. Chicago theater, like Milwaukee, predominantly runs on a subscription system rather than on investors, as Broadway producers do. That means companies can’t extend even their best shows indefinitely – there’s always another on the horizon.
Loevner wanted to break that pattern. He said he found himself watching great productions and wondering, “Why are they closing this show? It’s a huge hit!” When he found two like-minded partners, Aurélia K. Fisher and Monty Cole, they started the Collective as a way to build a class of local investors to fund regional shows based in Chicago.
A Steady Rain was at the top of Loevner’s list. He’d always wanted to remount it, but Chicago Dramatists only produces new plays. He quickly brought original director Russ Tutterow and actors Randy Steinmeyer and Peter DeFaria into the fold. They opened the show in late July at Chicago Dramatists and are now taking it on the road to Milwaukee and Three Oaks, Michigan.
A Steady Rain features only two characters: Denny (Steinmeyer), a gruff family man, and his partner Joey (DeFaria), a recovering alcoholic. The two have been friends since their Catholic school days and are now partnered beat cops in Chicago. The play comprises two parallel monologues – each its own version of the events surrounding the play – and a “present-day” conversation between the two.
DeFaria summed it up as “Two guys, 90 minutes, all talk, all the time.” That density – and the fact that Huff was rewriting the script all the way through the rehearsal process – made the play much more difficult for Steinmeyer and DeFaria to learn during its initial run. The two actors didn’t have to worry about memorization this time around. That’s allowed them to delve deeper into their characters.
“The pressure was really off, this run, and I think Randy and I culled a lot more from the script,” DeFaria said. “I think we made it a lot more complex on a lot of layers, and that was because we were, basically, relaxed.”
With that complexity comes ambiguity. In the original production, DeFaria said, he made an effort to play Joey as a “good guy.” This time, he’s scrapped the innocence angle, so both characters are morally questionable.
DeFaria and Steinmeyer believe it’s that challenge that helps people connect with the play. “I think what audiences find enjoyable is that they’re tasked with doing as much work almost as we are on stage,” DeFaria said. “They have to imagine all the different characters, all the scenes, all the settings – they really are tasked with providing it all in their mind’s eye.”
The Chicago Commercial Collective’s touring production of A Steady Rain runs Thursday, Oct. 25 through Sunday, Oct. 28, at Next Act Theatre, which CCC is renting. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased online.