A STEADY Evening of Excellence
The summer season has been long here in Hawaii, and for much of the rest of the world. Record highs have been plaguing our state, leaving ourselves, our friends, and our neighbors awash in sweat and discomfort. In addition to the climate becoming more volatile, other headlines signal the tide of the world changing: more mass shootings, abominable men committing suicide before their trial, and the still burning decimation of the lungs of the Earth. A lot can happen in one summer.
Keith Huff’s A STEADY RAIN chronicles how much life can change for two men and the people around them, all in the span of one very wet summer. Running at Kailua Onstage Arts (171-A Hamakua Drive) through September 1st, Lisa Barnes directs Huff’s candid and unrelenting powerhouse of a script.
A STEADY RAIN takes place in the not-too-distant past of Chicago during a summer of rain. The rain becomes a metaphor for the lives of two Chicago cops, Denny (Brandon Karrer) and Joey (Kevin Keaveney), both of whom have been skipped over for detective promotions a few times. Joey is shaking off the tail end of a bout of alcoholism, and Denny tends not to have a filter in his mouth; despite not making detectives, the two police officers are thick as thieves, looking out for one another time and time again (ever since Kindergarten). The play usually has either Denny or Joey addressing either the audience or an Internal Affairs review board directly, with the secondary speaker sometimes cutting in with “their” recollection of details and “how they saw it went down.” While the play is inspired by the Jeffery Dahmer serial killings, the play decides to flesh out the relationship between the two cops and their changing environment around them. For example, Joey is more willing to attend updated workshops and seminars on proper etiquette and manners while Denny not only spites them, he doubles down on his slurs and his gruff behavior and language. Or, in a world where meeting a partner (much less keeping them) grows harder and harder, Denny allows Joey to not only stay at his place (as opposed to Joey’s one bedroom flat), but shows him the things he may be missing by not putting himself out there; namely, a family and a home. The two cops, like other members of the force, skirt around the law here and there. However, Denny has a much more rigid and unbending view of justice and how he applies himself to it rather than Joey, who is a bit more open to seeing how things change but sometimes doesn’t have the courage to act upon his guts. The steady rain continues through the summer as Denny and Joey are confronted with scenarios and confrontations that will not only test their friendship and their mettle as police officers, but will ultimately cast a light on who they are themselves. Neither Denny nor Joey are upstanding moral beacons, in fact during the course of the play they both have their share in dips of moral latitude. Huff’s script beautifully explores what drives people to make the decisions they do, and then forces them to confront the consequences. In the end, you aren’t sympathetic towards either’s plight nor are you rooting for them either. Rather, the strength and beauty in Huff’s script lies in having you understand them and their motivations, and in seeing them follow through (or not) with their convictions as both Joey and Denny walk perilous paths.
Karrer and Keaveney both snare the audience with their first lines, wielding unique displays of charisma and technique as they tell their interwoven stories. The two sink into their characters so well, that between the emotional turmoil and character affectations they bestow upon themselves in addition to their commitment to their characters, you may not be able to recognize them after the show. Both Karrer and Keaveney are strong on their own, but when scenes draw them together, more of their magic is revealed as they wield a wonderful chemistry that will make you think they really did grow up together in this specific friendship dynamic. The trajectory of Karrer’s Denny per Huff’s script allows for more explosive and off-the-edge moments, which he depicts with heart wrenching truth and sincerity. Keaveney goes toe to toe with him though, as Huff wrote Joey to be more nuanced but no less deep or passionate. There is no intermission, but between the performances of these two actors you should not notice the time go by.
Barnes, along with her design team (Charles Wade, lighting design, Keaveney, set design, Reb Allen, graffiti art) have turned Kailua Onstage Arts into the perfect venue for this show. The stage is small, but does not require much. A table, some chairs, and some done-up stage blocks get miles of usage as we are introduced to various locales in Joey and Denny’s lives. The simplicity of the set really lends the focus back into the hands of Karrer and Keaveney, who keep the show driving. The simple yet strong choices in staging and design fit the show very well, and highlight the story being told (or mis-told).
A STEADY RAIN is a masterclass in performance with two performances remaining, tonight and tomorrow (Sunday). It is running at Kailua Onstage Arts, at 171-A Hamakua Drive. For tickets, click here.