Los Angeles Theater Review: A STEADY RAIN (John Kirby Studio)

by Dale Reynolds on July 22, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles

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A STEADY PLAY

What police personnel go through day-by-day isn’t really fully understood by civilians: the life-and-death tensions that alternate with the inevitable boredom and the public’s political vacillation between Protect Our Cops and Protect Our Citizens From Those Cops tends to get politicized and therefore ignored by all the oppositions.

Keith Huff’s amazing play A Steady Rain, now in a practical production directed by John Kirby, is indeed a remarkable piece of work. Using the opposite of what playwriting classes teach—organizing the narrative form of “show, don’t tell”—we are told a story of miscommunication, heart-breaking fatal choices made on inaccurate assumptions, and (as one character states) “tolerating the intolerable”—all in a series of horrible events taken from the headlines.

Huff’s insight into how cops navigate the shoals of negative public perception and citizen protests is wonderfully explored in his drama. Perhaps some in law-enforcement will disagree with his conclusions that citizens are often unfairly stigmatized as to their potential to commit crimes (used mostly against communities-of-color and the less well-off), but Huff’s point that law courts, as well as the court-of-public-opinion, may never see the same acts of aggression through the same lens is all part of this stimulating evening.

In 85 minutes, two Chicago cops unfold for us their friendship, their families, their disagreements over ethical lapses (one of them takes graft from hookers in the area), along with a justification of the tragic handing-over of a 14-year-old Vietnamese boy to a Jeffrey Dahmer-like character, all coalesce into a riveting bit of theater, which also provides superb roles for two excellent actors who make the most of the situation, inhabiting both the positive and negative aspects of their characters.

You shouldn’t know more than this when you walk in. Just accept that Huff, (R.J. DeBard) as the more volatile of the two, and Andy Hoff as Joey, the more mentally-sensible of the duo, take you (gently at first) on this rocket ride into a land most of us will never see close up and will be grateful for the ride anyway.

If there’s any fly-in-the-ointment here it’s in the less-than-satisfactory direction of Kirby, long acknowledged one of the best acting coaches in America. Due to monetary and physical constraints (a simple set, bad lighting and sound effects), the production tends to wander, and DeBard’s macho strengths tended to overshadow the equally fine work of Hoff. DeBard has enormous and impressive vocal range, but his constant bellowing while Denny continues to fall apart from excessive alcohol abuse, was too large for the intimate, under-50-seats venue. But Kirby has helped both actors play to their particular strengths, allowing Huff’s play to shine through.

This is theater at its best potential: emotional, thoughtful, humorous and very, very sad. Go. Stay. Enjoy. And be prepared to weep on the way home.

photos by Adam Ikaika

A Steady Rain
John Kirby Studio
1510 N. Las Palmas Avenue (just north of Sunset Blvd.)
ends on July 30, 2017 EXTENDED to August 20, 2017
for tickets, call 323.467.7877 or visit Brown Paper Tickets

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