★★★★★ - Irresistible
It’s raining in Chicago. Not hard, nor heavy, and not in the literal sense. Keith Huff’s drama “A Steady Rain” reveals the emotional rain (and pain) within two cops who’ve been lifelong friends and are now faced with confronting their flaws.
Directed for A Public Fit by Erik Amblad, this production sizzles as if lightning is striking the space. Amblad puts his actors into the atmosphere and keeps them there for the entire 90-minute storm. That is not to say there aren’t moments when the downpour doesn’t let up. He’s ensured the light moments breakthrough.
This is not your stereotypical good/cop/bad cop tale. Nothing feels pre-ordained, nothing feels contrived. Staged in the round, the characters break the fourth wall to take the audience on their slog through the emotional flood. Christopher Brown and Mark Gorman are both up to the task, with spades. Nothing feels forced, it all comes organically.
Brown inhabits the self-assured Denny with his entire instrument and his slide into self-realization is apparent in every movement, every expression, every vocalization. His smaller stature plays up in beautiful counter-point contrast to what might be typical expectations of the tough, bullying bad cop. One minor quibble hits after Denny is injured when the limp disappears and returns without justification.
The contrast Gorman, as Joey, provides with his good cop also plays against type. He’s brow-deep in unaware denial and wears his pain on his sleeve. Gorman brings an uncanny ability to waver when the bolt strikes with fury, leaving him in devastated turmoil.
The production values are superb. Though there is no rain curtain, the stage floor continues to get wet and forming small puddles, and wisps of steam rise from the street grates. Arles Estes’ sound establishes the atmosphere from the minute the audience arrives with a mixture of soul, rap, and blues broken up by intermittent police dispatches. At one point the sound of the rain ceases as Joey begins to think all is going to work out, then it crashes with a deluge to signal a final thunderstorm is at hand. Elizabeth Kline completes the immersion with lighting that brings the feel of damp days and foggy nights.
Amblad has brought his sensibilities as an actor to bear in directing this production. The cast and production team smartly followed like streams flow to the sea. Its subtleties inspire and linger long after the final light fade.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday - Saturday; 2 p.m. Sundays through Feb 23
Where: The Usual Place, 100 S. Maryland Parkway
Tickets: $25 - $30 (www.apublicfit.org)
Producer: A Public Fit; Artistic Director: Ann-Marie Pereth; Producing Director: Joseph D. Kucan; Director: Erik Amblad; Set Design: Eric A. Koger; Lighting Design: Elizabeth Kline; Sound Design: Arles Estes; Costume Design: Marlya Radeva-Nedyalkova; Production Stage Manager: Brandi Blackman
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