RAIN opens and closes this intense two-hander, played with honesty and truth in the intimate Ustinov Studio at the Theatre Royal, Bath, and the steady rain of the title pervades the narrative, only ending once the angst and tragedy of the play has been resolved.
A Steady Rain broke weekly box-office records for a non-musical Broadway show in a twelve-week season in 2009, starring Hugh Jackman and, in his Broadway debut, Daniel Craig. It is the story of two Chicago cops, lifelong friends, single, lonely, Joey, and married Denny, and they tell their own story of how they deal with the low-life criminals in their neighbourhood.
The rain is mentioned right at the beginning of the play, and once we hear about Denny taking money from prostitutes to help protect them, we recognise the universal language of theatrical tragedy, and realise that whilst the rain prevails nothing will be corrected.
Vincent Riotta plays Denny with a world-worn weariness which encourages our sympathy with the character, and this sympathy is gradually diminished as we hear more of Denny’s actions, drawing our loyalty and support away from him and towards Joey.
Joey, played with a subtle naivety by Brian Doherty, grows from being seemingly happy on his own to wanting to belong as part of a family, and any happiness at the end of the play is his alone, however tainted it may be.
Tightly directed by David Grindley, there is plenty of humour, dark and light, and genuine emotion portrayed by Riotta and Doherty, made almost more believable because they are not recognisable film stars. Both parts are played with tenderness and integrity, and an intensity heightened by the actors never leaving the stage, so that we feel compelled to listen to their emotional journey, both together, yet with separate and very different motivations, right to the awkward and tragic end, and the rain finally stopping.
Writer Keith Huff draws on real-life police folklore: tales of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, and the fact that a couple of Milwaukee policemen almost caught him before his final arrest and the corruption in the Chicago police department, rife since the times of Al Capone, and injects it into the ordinary lives of Joey and Denny.
Huff has already written a screenplay for A Steady Rain, following Hollywood interest from Steven Spielberg, but seeing it as a play, with the two powerful characters played by talented actors in a relatively small room, is my idea of perfect theatre.
It is at Bath until Saturday 10th May, and for anyone who enjoys the raw power of theatre, it is a must.
Saturday 19 April 2014
Photograph Simon Annand