Keith Huff’s play, “A Steady Rain,” is an absorbing variation in the “good cop/bad cop” genre.
Two cops, best friends since childhood, are partners in the Chicago Police Department. (In fact, they are so entwined that neither appears to have any other friends.) Denny (R.J. DeBard), the “bad cop,” is an explosive, out-of-control bully. Joey, the “good cop” (played by Andy Hoff in a consistently supportive and self-effacing manner) takes the brunt of Denny’s bullying, both physical and emotional, turns a blind eye to his partner’s misdemeanors, and covers for him with police officials and with Denny’s wife Connie. Which makes him not always the “good” cop.
Joey was always welcome in Denny’s childhood home and, since he had no other family, the life-long relationship has been maintained by Connie and the two little boys whom Joey treats as if they were his own.
Denny, however, believes that his manhood, and his reason for living, is dependent on his ability to provide for his family, a motive that he repeats throughout the play as a justification for his illicit activities. But when he begins an affair with a prostitute named Rhonda, he is confronted by her pimp, who is angry because Denny doesn’t pay for her services.
As the violence that ensues continues to escalate, someone throws a brick through Denny’s window and the flying glass hits his two-year-old son, Stewie. Denny, in a frenzy, insists on driving his son to the hospital at 90 miles an hour, driving on sidewalks and finally hitting the ambulance that was coming to pick up Stewie. And for several days Stewie’s life hangs in the balance.
The bad judgments the two policemen exhibited on the job cost them promotions and the good will of their fellows, but their downfall was based on a true story that actually took place in Milwaukee, not Chicago. But the way the playwright incorporated it into the lives of Denny and Joey mirrored the story as it had played out in Milwaukee.
It began when Denny and Joey answered a call about domestic violence. Getting to the scene, they found a naked Vietnamese boy screaming and sobbing and obviously terrified. Since he didn’t speak English the cops were mystified until a tall white man appeared and explained that he was the boy’s uncle and that they had had a lovers’ quarrel. Accepting this tale without further investigation, the two policeman turned the boy over to his “uncle,” Jeffrey Dahmer. Whereupon the boy became one of the 17 men that Dahmer killed, mutilated, and ate before he was tried and sent to prison.
All these characters were present in the play only through the conversations of the two actors. Joey’s presentations were timid and apprehensive as he countered the bombastic declarations that Denny, covered in sweat, shouted consistently—-and sometimes, in the violence of his emotions, incomprehensibly.
The two actors, directed by John Kirby in an almost empty setting by Mike Flannery, were extraordinary in their intensity, their expressed devotion to their work, and their inconsistent views on morality. Their verbal and physical brutality leaves the audience exhausted, but this dynamic and dramatic play is definitely a “listen carefully” and “think about It” sort of production. And well worth seeing!
“A Steady Rain”, which is being presented at the John Kirby Studio after a sold-out run during the 2017 Hollywood Fringe Festival, can be seen Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 7 through Aug. 20th. The John Kirby Studio is located at 1510 N. Las Palmas Ave, in Los Angeles. Call (323) 467-7877 for tickets.