“A Steady Rain,” the debut performance from Honest Pint Theatre Company and written by Keith Huff, is the story of a summer when a literal and figurative “steady rain” falls in the lives of two friends and Chicago cops—reckless, impulsive Denny (Ryan Brock) and sweet, big-hearted Joey, (David Henderson) who, with Denny’s help, has recently overcome a drinking problem. Friends since childhood, Denny and Joey have always shared a love-hate relationship, one in which each is dependent on the other. Denny, with his seemingly perfect family (at least at first) and his rigid moral code—which turns out to be a lot more messed up and over-rationalized than it seems at the show’s start—is set on transforming Joey into a carbon-copy of himself, and Joey, to some degree, seems to want that too. Brock and Henderson share a real chemistry, and the banter-style dialogue Huff uses when the two converse creates an on-stage friendship that’s so real, it practically breathes. Early in the show, for example, the two men have a fight, and the making-up process is a slow one, one that progresses from virulently-slurred insults to soft, teasing ones and from hard, hateful punches (from Denny) to lighter, more affectionate ones. It is a true portrayal of the complex friendships that exist between men and the convoluted ways in which they have been taught to show their affections.
It is not just the friendship that is so fully realized in this poignant piece, however. The very characters themselves are real down to the bone. Everyone knows a Denny—a man who makes all kinds of bad choices but who can make himself so lovable that everyone looks the other way. And, everyone knows a Joey, a tag-along who seems to idolize and adore his superstar best friend, while all the while harboring semi-envy and an underlying belief that, with the right look, the right tools, he could take center stage and do a better job of it.
While revealing too much about the rapidly unfolding plot— a plot that packs one emotional punch after another without even a hint of letting up—would ruin the show’s perfect pacing and Huff’s brilliant storytelling, suffice it to say that the drama starts, at least as far as the story is concerned, when a pimp whom Denny has pissed off fires a gun through Denny’s window and severely injures his youngest child. This serves as a catalyst for the destructiveness that has been building in Denny for a very long time, perhaps forever, to come gushing out and spilling onto everything around it.
Huff’s tale is filled with haunting images, images that will stay with the viewer long after the show is over. Multi-layered and full of irony, the script is also brilliant at revealing small details of the story in passing only to bring them up later and have them play a huge and influential role in the plot. And, because the true brunt of Denny’s crookedness is revealed bit by bit, he manages to be an understandable, if not a likeable character.
Director C. Glen Matthews proves a master at his craft, coaching incredible performances from both Brock and Henderson. In his role as Denny, Brock shows what is truly meant by an actor’s body being his instrument. His posture as Denny is ramrod straight—the picture of a police officer—and he is, at times, so intense that it’s almost scary. Henderson is the perfect counterbalance—calmer, gentler, but with just the right amount of inner-turmoil hidden in his eyes.
Not only are the acting and directing as strong as they possibly can be, but Miyuki Su’s set is breathtaking. Su transforms the North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre stage into what looks like an interrogation room, complete with mirrored windows, windows which Matthews uses effectively to have the characters take a few long, hard looks at themselves. The set feels confined, cramped, and somewhat smothering too, but in the most wonderful way—in a way that perfectly showcases the co-dependence that exists between Denny and Joey.
Completed by soft, gentle lighting cues, this is a no-frills production, but the writing (and everything else) is so strong, that they aren’t needed. In fact, they would detract from the devastating beauty of this perfect piece.
Honest Pint Theatre Company presents A STEADY RAIN at 8 p.m. Aug. 24, 3 p.m. Aug. 25, 8 p.m. Aug. 30 and 31, 3 p.m. Sept. 1, 8 p.m. Sept. 6 and 7, and 3 p.m. Sept. 8 at North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, 7713-51 Lead Mine Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27615, in the Greystone Village Shopping Center.
TICKETS: $10 matinees and $15 evenings.
BOX OFFICE: https://www.vendini.com/.
NEWS RELEASE: http://honestpinttheatre.blogspot.com/2013/08/press-release.html.
A Steady Rain (2007 Broadway drama): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Steady_Rain (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Keith Huff (playwright): http://chicagodramatists.org/Content/Members/MemberPublicProfile.aspx?pageId=958233&memberId=4214402 (Chicago Dramatists bio).
C. Glen Matthews (director): https://www.facebook.com/cglen.matthews (Facebook bio).