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Friday, 02 October 2009 14:24

Broadway Review: "A Steady Rain"

Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig in A Steady Rain

Hugh Jackman (L) and Daniel Craig star in A Steady Rain
Photo: Greg Williams

If you think the sandwiches at the Carnegie Deli are overstuffed you should see A Steady Rain, the new drama which just opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.  Playwright Keith Huff has stuffed this 90-minute piece with enough dramatic shtick to keep you sufficiently confused and on your toes.   The events take place within a few days in the “not-too-distant past” according to the setting in the Playbill. 

The play stars Wolverine mutant Hugh Jackman and the currently reigning James Bond, Daniel Craig.  The 90-minute piece, performed without an intermission tells the story of two Chicago cops who are partners and life-long friends.  It’s a tale of two tortured souls, each with their own demons as they cope with one man’s undoing and the other’s ultimate success at obtaining both a promotion and the other man’s wife.

Denny (Jackman) is a decent guy with a fluid moral sensibility that allows him to justify protecting hookers by shaking them down.  All this is in an attempt to provide for his wife, two children and dog.  He’s the kind of man who refers to women’s ample breasts as “upper frontal superstructures.”    

Hugh Jackman (L) and Daniel Craig star in A Steady Rain
Photo: Greg Williams

Partner Joey (Craig) lives in a one-room rental and refers to his partner’s life-style as “conspicuously exorbitant” while silently envying him.  He’s a loner with a heart whose sole sense of family comes from the time he spends with his partner and his partner’s family.  He is succinctly summed up by his partner Denny when he says he should “be teaching Buddhism to Lutherans.”

Denny is obsessed with protecting his way of life at any cost.  When a pimp retaliates against him, he seeks retribution in ways that ultimately harm himself and his family and result in Denny entering a downward spiral from which he can’t recover.  To say that the character has anger issues is an understatement.

The playwright weaves the two points of view into a story using monologues that meld into dialogue between the two men.  The play is deftly directed by John Crowley (Pillow Man) who takes Huff’s characters and seamlessly choreographs the transitions between monologue and dialogue.  

Not having seen the “X-Men” films, most of my exposure to Hugh Jackman has been watching him while working on the Tony Awards during the three years he hosted the show.  Obviously this character provides a stark contrast to the song-and-dance man.  It is no doubt a testament to Jackman that he is virtually unrecognizable as the flaming Peter Allen he played so adroitly in The Boy from Oz
The scenery by Scott Pask is almost non-existent except for a couple of scenes that have scenery upstage that creates an alley or street.  Otherwise, the stage is a black box the majority of the time.

A day or two before I saw the show, a video was released of Jackman stopping the show when an audience member’s cell phone went off.  Prior to the performance on the night I saw it, the ushers were on anyone with a cell phone, waving flashlights in their face as they texted even before the show began.  And don’t you know, during the middle of the play a cell phone went off.  You could see Jackman tense up but he continued with the performance.  This piece is very intense and it’s not hard to imagine a cell phone completely distracting an actor to the point where he goes up on lines and comes out of character.  Hugh Jackman was completely in his right to do what he did.  What does it take people?

Not that the producers needed to worry about selling tickets to this show, a limited 6-week engagement but the critics seemed unduly harsh towards the play itself.  This is not a terrible play.  It’s packed full and definitely requires some suspension of disbelief,   but you won’t be bored and Jackman's and Craig's performances are outstanding.

Disagree with me?  Scroll down and write your own review.

View production credits at Internet Broadway Database.


Review Roundup:

Elysa Gardner for USA Today - "The events informing A Steady Rain (* * *½ out of four) would make a heck of an action movie. And the cast of Keith Huff's new drama, which opened Tuesday at Broadway's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, consists of two superstars who have ample experience in that arena ... Huff's briskly absorbing script has its clichés and contrivances, but Denny and Joey are drawn with such earthy wit and non-patronizing compassion that Rain never rings false or superficial. It's hard to imagine a better vehicle for two actors who clearly don't need larger-than-life characters to deliver grand performances."

Ben Brantley for The New York Times - "'A Steady Rain,' which opened on Tuesday night at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater, is probably best regarded as a small, wobbly pedestal on which two gods of the screen may stand in order to be worshiped."

Michael Kuchwara for Associated Press - "And while both men, particularly Craig, acquit themselves well, they can't turn the 90-minute evening into anything more than a chance to see two big-time movie stars emoting up close in a pulpy, plot-heavy entertainment."

Charles McNulty for The LA Times - "But under John Crowley's spare and precise direction, the actors earn their adulation, magnifying what's most gripping about Huff's writing even when the drama, stretched thin with bang-bang incident, becomes considerably less believable over time. And for those worried about authenticity, fear not: Although Jackman is from Australia and Craig is from England, they slip into the American reality of their characters as if it were a second skin."

Published in 2009-2010 Season