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A Steady Rain (Santa Rosa)

Two chairs. A table. Two lights. Two actors. A story.

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These are the elements director Argo Thompson has gathered to create a very compelling evening of theatre with the Left Edge Theatre production of A Steady Rain, running now at the Carsten Cabaret of the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts. First seen on Broadway in 2009 (in a record-setting run with Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig in the leads, which may have had something to do with it setting some records), A Steady Rain is part character piece, part police procedural, part family tragedy and, quite frankly, part love story. Combined, it makes for one hell of a human drama.

Denny (Mike Schaeffer) and Joey (Nick Sholley) are two childhood friends who have grown up in Chicago and become “beat” cops together.  They are classic “Type A/Type B” personalities. The play opens with each seeming to be presenting testimony and painting a very vivid picture as to the circumstances of a particular situation that has created some difficulty for them. Through alternating and occasional inter-twining monologues, conversational recreations and confrontations, we soon get to know these characters for who they are, their relationships, and what will eventually put them at loggerheads. It’s not a very pretty picture.

Playwright Keith Huff, better known for his work on television’s Mad Men and House of Cards, has written characters with foundations that border on the clichéd. At first glance, their issues with alcoholism, racism, ingrained corruption, infidelity, etc. seem to be the common fodder that feed most law enforcement-based “entertainments” these days. Huff has written them a bit deeper than that and both characters are far more complex than the script would initially lead you to believe. It is not a simple case of “good cop/bad cop.” As loathsome as Denny may seem the more you get to know him, there are admirable traits to his character. As honorable as Joey appears to be, how honorable is it to turn a blind eye to the behaviors of his partner?  Schaeffer and Sholley inject these somewhat stock characters with an admirable amount of believability.

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Schaeffer has the flashier of the roles as the extroverted Denny who, with his disturbingly casual expressions of racism and bursts of violence, is a ticking time bomb that you know will go off before the end of the evening. You’re just now quite sure how.

Sholley’s Joey is a more introverted, hence internalized, character. Sholley uses his physicality and hangdog appearance to effectively express how beaten down (literally) Joey has become from his work and, more importantly, from his friendship with Denny – whether he sees it or not.

The sense of decay, isolation, and disillusionment these characters feel with their jobs and relationships and the path of human destruction on which they’re headed is enhanced by the technical components present, including subtle light design work by April George and an ambient sound design by Thompson. An example of minimalist theatre at its best, the focus is squarely on the two protagonists and the ancillary elements enhance that focus, not draw you away from it.

Questions of honor, duty, responsibility and the perils of friendship and/or blind devotion are at the heart of A Steady Rain – interesting questions well-raised via two strong performances in a production well worth seeking out.

A Steady Rain

Presented by Left Edge Theatre

through February 6

Fri/Sat @ 8pm

Wells Fargo Center for the Arts
Carston Cabaret
50 Mark West Springs Rd
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

(707) 546-3600

Photos courtesy of Left Edge Theatre

www.leftedgetheatre.com

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