Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Steady Rain

Fine acting & powerful script make A STEADY RAIN a must see at Dobama

On the surface, Keith Huff's A STEADY RAIN tells the story of two lifelong friends, who, while serving as policemen, experience several harrowing days that forever change their lives, and the lives of those with whom they have contact. That description is only the tip of the depth and impact of the script and Dobama's riveting production.

The specifics regarding the emotionally wrenching tale concern a series of events which center on friendship, alcohol and drug use, family discord, abuse, mistaken decisions and what happens when two lives spin out of control. Part of the tale is loosely based on the events surrounding cannibalistic serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and one of his victims.

The story rolls out in the unusual writing device of alternating monologues and present-moment dialogues. It allows the viewers to become intimately involved in the lives of Joey and Denny and to view the unpeeling of the story and the motivations of each man.

Joey is single and lonely. He has spent a life being abused and neglected and has retreated to alcohol as an escape. Desperate for friendship, he has turned himself over to Denny to set the course of his life. Joey has allowed Denny to physically and verbally abuse him. Abuse him until…. (you'll have to see the play to finish that sentence).

Denny is married with children. He is a hate-filled bigot, who, though stating over and over that he does what he does for the sake of his family, allows his misguided thinking and judgments to dictate his warped decision making. Abuse, stealing, drug use, having affairs and running roughshod over rules, are only part of his issues. The results are a gun assault on his home, the murders of a prostitute, a black youth and a pimp, the near death of his child, and a startling ending to the play which brought gasps from the audience.

The play has been called “a gritty, rich, thick, poetic and entirely gripping noir tale." The writing has engendered such evaluations as 'provides [the actors] with enough fiery, superbly rendered, often deeply poetic speeches, enough mood shifts, enough emotional cataclysms and action-packed storytelling to keep this hallucinatory roller-coaster ride in motion.”

The award winning play opened on Broadway in 2009 with a sold-out 12-week engagement which starred Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig.

Dobama's production, under the focused direction of Joel Hammer, is mesmerizing. Filled with many thought-provoking scenes, actors Scott Plate and Jeremy Kendall wrench emotional fidelity from almost every scene. Different in approach, physicality and demeanor, both men develop clear characterizations.

Plate is introspective as the emotionally thwarted Joey. He gives us a man whose life has been filled with frustration and has learned to escape from his hell through alcohol, false love and loyalty. Except for some accent shifts and the need for a little more emotional texturing near the end of the play, this is an excellent portrayal.

Kendall, who has several monologues which are as close to nervous breakdowns as you'll see on stage, is relentless in his maniacal character development. It's worth attending A STEADY RAIN just to see this performance. You'll come out of the theatre both hating and feeling sorry for Denny.

Marcus Dana's lighting and Richard Ingraham's sound effects help build the tensions and take us on the journey.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Fine acting, intriguing script…..'go….go…..go….see Dobama's A STEADY RAIN!