This play is gritty and gripping, a crime story that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. Like the fast ride that Denny and Joey take, A Steady Rain carries the audience in a wild chase to its bloody conclusion. Currently playing at the Arcola Theatre, this production of Keith Huff’s A Steady Rain is the same one that premiered in 2015 at the East Riding Theatre.
Joey and Denny are partners, beat police in Chicago and they’ve been friends since kindergarten. Their bond is palpable with Denny urging his lonely and depressed friend Joey to treat his house and family as his own. Through witty and fast paced dialogue, mixed with storytelling, an attack on Denny’s family starts the duo off on a trek through the underbelly of Chicago. It tells of police corruption and vice and tests the bonds of friendship and loyalty beyond endurance. At the climax of the story there is blood and mayhem and shady deals aplenty.
Is there a winner in this story? No.
The alpha male is Denny, here played by Vincent Regan. Denny is very unsympathetic as he exposes himself as a misogynistic violent man who cheats on his wife and the system with a blatant disregard for morals. Regan strings him out with consummate skill and in the second act manages to extract some empathy from the wrung out audience as Denny faces his demons – and loses his world. Of particular note is Regan’s physical work in the role. With one lift of an eyebrow he conveys much and when he brings his whole being into play, his performance is riveting.
Matching this strong performance is David Schaal in the role of Joey. Joey is a functioning alcoholic and with Denny’s help is putting his life back together. He is the perfect antidote to his partner’s lack of integrity, trying to stick to the rules and rein in some of Denny’s excess of spirit. Schaal captures the moments of struggle in his character as he juggles what he knows to be right with what he must do to support his partner.
Above all, the relationship between the two characters is clearly delineated by Regan and Schaal as both actors commit wholeheartedly to the narrative.
The other star of this production is the design. Ed Ullyart has echoed the shades of grey within the narrative and produced a set that is clean and slick with counterpoints like the window. This is almost invisible and dark until it lights with the colours of danger at salient points in the drama. Stage lighting is likewise dark and the costumes also strengthen this imagery. In the second half, splashes of red from various sources is most effective. On top of this is an element of video art. It is not immediately apparent as to how the video links with the story but by the end of the play it is apparent and has become one more point of distinction.
With a production as strong and cohesive as A Steady Rain, the director has to have had a solid concept and be extremely skilled. Andrew Pearson, director of this production, should be congratulated on his outstanding work. Each word and nuance of meaning has been highlighted and explored through his clear direction.
A Steady Rain is a powerful example of its genre and it is one of those rare productions when the sum of the whole is greater than that of its independent parts. It is a play in which the audience can look evil in the face and recognize it.