A Steady Rain

A Chick & a Dude Productions keeps this drama of Chicago beat cops challenging and engaging from start to finish

The thin blue line: Kenneth Wayne Bradley and Tom Green
The thin blue line: Kenneth Wayne Bradley and Tom Green (Photo courtesy of Shannon Weaver)

A Steady Rain

Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd, 921-4264
Through March 9
Running time: 2 hr.

There is a unique aftereffect of watching Keith Huff's A Steady Rain, brought on by the quality of the writing. After two hours of a live stage performance, the memory of the production from A Chick & A Dude Productions feels sharply cinematic. Huff's mode of storytelling is vivid and inherently visual, despite using only two actors who have more words than action on a minimal set.

The two actors play Denny and Joey, a pair of Chicago beat cops who have been friends since childhood and who can't seem to break into the ranks of detective – in their eyes, because of departmental quotas based on race. Before long, however, it's apparent that the situation is more complex than that. Denny has a history of corrupt behavior, and his dealings in the community are tainted by racism. Loyal to a fault, Joey is held back with him.

And yet the play is also more complex than just a couple of shady policemen in a city known for corruption. Denny is not likeable, but he follows his own strict, if questionable, moral code. He also has a tender sliver in the folds of his angry personality. A textbook bully, he still cares what happens to his partner Joey, and Denny's wife and children are at the core of his pride and identity, despite his dishonesty and violent tendencies. Joey is kind and sensitive, but he is also undeniably weak and slow to take the right action in the face of a wrong one. He is dishonest, too, in his own way.

Denny and Joey take turns telling the story – occasionally interacting with each other, but mostly speaking to the audience. As part of his convoluted notion of right and wrong, Denny hates pimps but takes payoffs from prostitutes, and he runs afoul of one pimp in particular. The conflict between them escalates, ensnaring Joey and Denny's family as Denny's stubbornness drives him to terrible ends.

The strength of A Steady Rain, under the direction of Melissa Livingston-Weaver, is that the story is challenging and engaging from start to finish. Kenneth Wayne Bradley and Tom Green perform their roles ably. A few hitches and hesitations appeared on opening night, but these were small and minor afterthoughts from performances that showed thoughtful and thorough character work. Helped by the script's pacing, the actors present a story scene by scene – not changing scenes in the traditional theatrical sense, but revealing the character-driven, visually intense story with a filmlike structure.

It's also rewarding to see a company that has successfully honed in on its own strengths. Other groups in town will gather the large ensemble cast or construct the daring set for an original musical. Chick & A Dude understands that its forte lies in creating solid productions of smaller yet equally valuable plays. One hopes it will continue to select well-written scripts to suit the actors who work with it.

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A Steady Rain, Austin theatre, A Chick & A Dude Productions, Tom Green, Kenneth Wayne Bradley, Melissa Livingston-Weaver

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