A Steady Rain. The title says it all. These words don’t only describe the weather conditions during which the events of Keith Huff’s one-act play occur. They also convey the mood of the events themselves. Our protagonists, two troubled Chicago police officers named Denny and Joey, go from one grey, sodden catastrophe to another. Their friendship is tested, and their resolve is gradually weakened. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the play when I saw it at The Fugard Theatre. Indeed, the seriousness of A Steady Rain is what makes it poignant and devastatingly real.
Denny, (SAFTA winner Brent Palmer), is an Italian-American husband and father who regularly tries to set the introverted Irish-American Joey (Nicholas Pauling of Clybourne Park) up with a prospective girlfriend. One night he introduces Joey to a prostitute named Rhonda. The evening is not a success. Denny drives Rhonda home and runs afoul of her pimp on the way back.
Subsequently, there is a drive-by shooting at Denny’s, and his son is seriously wounded. The pimp, Walter Lorenz, is the obvious culprit, and the headstrong Denny pursues him, with the reluctant Joey in tow. It is during this pursuit that the men make a mistake of nightmarish proportions. Upon encountering a terrified Vietnamese boy who desperately seeks their protection, they hand him over to a man claiming to be the boy’s uncle. What they find out later is the first of numerous devastating occurrences that lead to a tragic finale.
What benefits A Steady Rain most is that it is made up, almost entirely, of monologues. We are privy to the alternating viewpoints of both characters, and the play’s narrative is gradually revealed through them. At the same time, we come to understand the complexity of each officer’s personality. Despite persistently reinforcing the image of himself as a family man, Denny is aggressive and a racist. Joey, on the other hand, is a despairing alcoholic who could be seen as loyal to his friend, if it weren’t for a certain yearning he keeps hidden.
Encounters between these men are enacted for us as well, and we develop an idea of their waning friendship. In fact, enough emphasis is put on their interpersonal dynamics for us to leave the play’s more disturbing content behind for a while. Added to that, the gloom is sufficiently punctuated at times by the kind of humour you’d expect from two grumbling American cops, one brash, the other despondent.
Both actors pull off their characters’ accents and conflicting emotions impressively, and UCT graduate Adrian Collins must be commended for this, his directorial debut. The set is understandably sparse, with a table, two chairs and three overhead lights being more than sufficient. After all, A Steady Rain is more psychological drama than thriller, and requires your utmost attention.
When Wednesday 12 October at 8 pm (until Saturday 22 October)
Where The Fugard Theatre, Corner of Caledon and Lower Buitenkant streets, District Six
Cost R130 at Computicket
Contact +27 21 461 4554, www.thefugard.com
Photography courtesy Daniel Rutland Manners
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