23 August 2015

A Steady Rain, by Keith Huff

This production was fantastic. A Steady Rain seems like an extremely difficult play to perform because there is very little that happens—most of the action is narrated by one or both of the characters, Denny and Joey. We get their competing perspectives and their competing versions of events, and in the gaps between these two narratives we can piece together a series of events in the lives of these two Chicago policemen and childhood best friends.

Because the play moves between monologue, duologue, and occasionally dialogue, the two actors need to be able to transition clearly but casually between these different narrative modes. In this production, directed by David Beach, Sean Marko (Denny) and Travis Teffner (Joey) navigated these competing narrative modes seamlessly. While both occupied the stage space for the majority of the performance, it was clear that sometimes they spoken only to the audience, and sometimes spoke to one another.

In particular Marko’s performance as Denny brought a dark intensity and power to the stage, as we watched the character slip from casual, child-like roughhousing and political-incorrectness to a deeply rooted violence—we watched the police officer become worse than the criminals he hated. What made Marko’s performance so powerful and menacing was that he embodied the potential for violence—the threat was visibly there and it came to permeate the stage space. Even the smile was a veiled threat of violence.

Teffner’s performance was equally powerful, but Joey as a character and the performance were more rooted in a human struggle (as opposed to the more psychopathic Denny). Joey struggles to find his own identity, which has been so formed by the dominance of Denny since childhood, in a world where Denny’s casual violence and racism bring punishment rather than reward. Teffner’s shifting performance showed the struggle the character goes through—the need to escape from Denny’s toxic influence, but also the guilt and remorse about betraying his friend.

The comparatively bare setting and minimal props helped focus this performance, putting the two actors front and center, which really let the strength of their performances do the work. And the strength of these two performances was probably the best thing the production could have led with. Everything—the setting with just a table, chairs, a tea cup and whiskey bottle; the effective and meaningful shifts in lighting—were intended to give Marko and Teffner the opportunity to be spectacular, and they definitely were.

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