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A Steady Rain: drenched in noir

by | May 25, 2019 | Review | 0 comments

Seven Tyrants Theatre is presenting A Steady Rain.

Daniel Deorksen and David Newham loom large in A Steady Rain.

> > >This is a guest review by David Johnston

If you stabbed A Steady Rain in the jugular, it would bleed cigarette smoke and malt whiskey.

Seven Tyrants Theatre is closing their season with a week-long remount of last year’s detective thriller duet. Keith Huff’s script is a 90-minute injection of pure noir. The hard, unadulterated stuff.

Are there streets? Are they mean? Are they rain-slicked and gleaming like the dying hopes at the bottom of a shot glass?

Reader, you need not ask.

And that’s just dandy. If noir stories are your thing (and they are mine, mostly), then a well-executed one is like a comfortable blanket to nuzzle into. The issue is, an exercise like this needs two key things to succeed: character and atmosphere. Unfortunately, Seven Tyrants’ attempt at the production nails only one.

The remount doesn’t have a director; it has an ‘original director’ from last year, Bill Devine, with the implication in the program that he was fairly hands-off this time around. It’s apt. A lot here feels hands-off. The staging is small and unambitious, and the potential stylishness is muted. Kurt Schindelka’s live keyboard scoring is alternately effective and intrusive, mostly the latter.

Like the last Seven Tyrants show I saw, minimalist design demands precision, and as before, tiny errors stand out. The wooden floor is too shiny, like it’s set up for a ballroom dance contest. The lone table has an unnecessary drawer that winks at the audience but is never opened during the action of the play.

Thankfully, the two actors carrying the piece are crackerjack dynamos. Daniel Deorksen and David Newham are the jaded beat cops who unravel the story in parallel narrations that occasionally interweave but mostly act like vinegar and oil, floating but never quite blending.

Deorksen is the standout: he somehow has a wildly expressive face while painting with a tightly confined pallet of emotions. He smiles exactly twice all night — I counted. The rest of the time, he’s a kettle of simmering vitriol as a recovering alcoholic (of course he’s a recovering alcoholic) who can’t yet fathom his new worldview. I never wanted to stop staring at him.

His character, Joey, is the beta to Newham’s Denny, a monstrously hypocritical family man and career cop. Newham’s burly presence and round face seem built for joy. So watching Denny slowly destroy every aspect of his life while he tracks down the criminal behind a deeply personal attack (of courseit’s deeply personal) is all the more painful and heart-rending.

You may notice I’ve avoided discussing the plot. That’s because it doesn’t matter. It would be like reviewing a dishwasher and critiquing the font of the instruction manual. All that matters is yes, there’s a plot, and it’s a pretty good one. There are hookers and guns and car chases and crooked cops. There’s maybe fifteen minutes too much content, but it mostly fits together in the moment. The details are irrelevant. You won’t remember them an hour after the show.

But you’ll remember Deorksen’s dead-eyed thousand-yard stare, and you’ll remember Newham’s sweat-and-tear-stained face, and you’ll remember the powerful way both men occupy space and make room for the other. A Steady Rain settles into its cozy genre-fare slot through the crispness of the writing and the talents of the performers, despite many of the production elements hampering their work.

If you feel like taking a short walk down a mean street, then A Steady Rain should be right up your alley.

A STEADY RAIN Written by Keith Huff. Originally Directed by Bill Devine. Presented by Seven Tyrants Theatre. At Tyrant Studios on Thursday, May 23. Continues until May 31. Tickets.


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