By MaryAnn Kromer
Friendship, integrity and responsibility are the core themes of Bellevue Society for the Arts' production of "A Steady Rain" by Keith Huff. The first two performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with two more planned Jan. 25 and 26.
The action in this drama is conveyed through the separate monologues and present moment dialogues. The two characters, Chicago police officers Denny and Joey, are portrayed by Ethan Mandeville of Sandusky and Luke Siegel-Schaefer of Bellevue, respectively.
This dark and serious version of "The Odd Couple" is peppered with offensive language, adult content and small hints of humor. Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman starred in the 2009 Broadway production of "A Steady Rain." It was voted one of the Top 10 plays of the year.
Audience members never see violence or gore, but they hear all the disturbing details, which differ depending on which character is speaking. The set is a small table with two chairs that are moved about at different angles. The cast performs in the lobby of the theater, with the audience surrounding the set. The actors turn to face different segments of the audience to allow for strong and direct engagement. Scene changes are accomplished mostly with lighting.
The drama seems to begin in the middle of the story, perhaps because the two characters have been friends since kindergarten and now are middle-aged. The audience learns both have been passed over for promotions in spite of their lengthy tenure.
On the job, Denny, has been known to bend the rules on numerous occasions. His openly racist remarks to suspects and offenders serve to provoke and denigrate them. Denny blames his parents for passing their bigotry on to him.
Single and lonely, Joey spends many evenings at Denny's dinner table helping the wife, Connie, entertain their two young sons, Stewart and Nowell. Joey tries to convince his friend to be more tolerant toward the public, but his own alcohol abuse gives him limited credibility.
Denny believes Joey always wants things he cannot have. Although Denny seems to care about his family, he tends to react inappropriately to family crises. He also cheats on Connie with a prostitute, rationalizing he is helping the woman with the money he gives her. To cover his tracks, he tells Connie he is working other jobs so the family can have a big-screen television and other extras.
Despite Joey's warnings about a "slippery slope," Denny continues his risky behaviors. His lapses in protocol get his car windshield smashed and his picture window shattered by a pimp. Flying shards of window glass injure Connie and Nowell and sever an artery in Stewart's neck. Denny describes how he frantically transports his bleeding family to the ER in heavy traffic, instead of waiting for an ambulance.
Joey and Connie later learn that waiting might have resulted in less blood loss and consequent nerve and brain damage for the little boy. In addition, Denny interferes with the investigation at his home.
He feels the overwhelming need to take control of the situation on his own; hence, his compulsion to push the envelope.
While spending the night on Denny's couch as a "watchdog," Joey has an intimate moment with Connie that makes him realize he loves his best friend's spouse. Denny becomes suspicious, and Joey realizes he has enabled his friend by covering for him. By the end of Act I, Joey tells Connie the extra money Denny has been bringing home did not come from multiple jobs.
A more serious professional crisis erupts during Act II, threatening the friendship of the officers and putting their careers on the line.
This powerful adult drama is meant to provoke thought rather than to lift viewers' spirits.
Brad Rowe, Bellevue, is director of "A Steady Rain," with Nancy Steyer, Tiffin, as assistant director. Tickets are available by visiting www.bellevuearts.net or by calling (419) 484-2787. Seating is limited.
Bellevue Society for the Arts is located at 205 Maple St., Bellevue.