Matthew Reddin

“A Steady Rain” a gripping, relentless tale

Original cast members Randy Steinmeyer and Peter DeFaria never lose focus in this revived Chicago cop drama, visiting Next Act this weekend only.

By - Oct 26th, 2012 02:38 pm
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Peter DeFaria (Joey, L) and Randy Steinmeyer (Denny, R) take turns telling their sides of the story in “A Steady Rain.” Photo credit Jeff Pines.

I haven’t seen many plays like A Steady Rain. It opens with two characters talking to the audience and ends the same way, with nothing structurally different in between.

I also haven’t seen many plays as emotionally gripping. From that simple start to that simple finish, actors Randy Steinmeyer and Peter DeFaria pull you firmly into their characters’ world. They don’t let you go until you’re as changed by its events as they are.

Those characters are Denny Lombardo (Steinmeyer) and Joey Doyle (DeFaria), two beat cops from the South Side of Chicago. A Steady Rain is composed entirely of their sometimes-competing monologues, in which they describe a rainy summer that changed their lives. A summer when a bullet crashes through Denny’s window and puts his youngest son in mortal danger, when both men flirt with adultery, and when the resulting mental distraction leads them to leave a young Vietnamese boy in the hands of his “uncle,” no questions asked.

The fact that that “uncle” is a cannibalistic serial killer a la Jeffery Dahmer obviously accelerates the duo’s ongoing downward spiral. But the genius of Keith Huff’s script is that as significant as this one act is to us, to Denny and Joey it’s simply one of the horrifying events that shake them during this summer. Huff focused on how these two respond to the events that reshape them and how their complex relationship changes with those responses.

These guys are “beat” cops in more than one sense of the word. They’re worn down by years of getting passed up for promotions, resentful of the direction their lives have taken and unable to see just how much their lifelong friendship is costing both of them.

“A Steady Rain’s” unique duologue structure requires DeFaria and Steinmeyer to play off each other’s monologues, which they excel at. Photo credit Jeff Pines.

Denny is the family man, and every action he takes is for their benefit. Or so he says. He makes the case for and against a dozen times each. He runs himself ragged to find the man who hurt his son even as he runs his wife ragged with neglect and, occasionally, physical abuse. He’s the more volatile of the two, with a habit of racist rants and the potential to burst into spontaneous blustery red-faced rage at a moment’s notice.

Joey’s family is Denny’s, by virtue of a lot of things. Two of those things are the duo’s lifelong friendship and Joey’s drinking problem, which Denny tries to curb by inviting him over almost every night. Another is the love Joey secretly harbors for Denny’s wife. He starts in control of all those things – if Denny can sometimes be fire, Joey’s as often the ice cooling him down – and even when things start to unravel he’s better than his partner at keeping it together.

You get all this in about five minutes with Steinmeyer and DeFaria, who slip into their roles effortlessly. Part of this is surely due to the history of the production, a touring revival of the 2007 Chicago premiere, directed again by Russ Tutterow and brokered by the Chicago Commercial Collective, a group of Midwest producers. The actors show not even a shred of boredom or complacency, which might come from doing a show over and over. Quite the opposite; their polished portrayals give A Steady Rain a strength beyond its formidable script.

The only stumbling block is verbosity. Steinmeyer and DeFaria say so much in the course of 90-odd minutes – some retellings directly contradicting each other – that it can be hard to follow early on. But as the two take command, it becomes hard to lose focus, even for a minute. Before long, you’re hanging on each of those many, many words. They build a crescendo to the play’s shattering, beautifully tragic finale.

A Steady Rain, presented by the Chicago Commercial Collective, runs through Sunday, Oct. 28 at Next Act Theatre. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased at the show’s website

Don’t miss anything! Bookmark Matthew Reddin’s TCD Guide to 2012-13, sponsored by the Florentine Opera. And each Tuesday, check Danielle McClune’s On Stage, our weekly guide.

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