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Performing Arts
 

‘Rain’ on me


Carpenter Square presents a must-see show with excellent direction and stellar acting.

Larry Laneer January 25th, 2012

A Steady Rain
7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 4
Carpenter Square Theater
900 W. Main
carpentersquare.com
232-6500
$16-$21

Two fine actors giving terrific performances and a director who knows when to let well enough alone results in “A Steady Rain,” a highly satisfying evening of theater.

Concerning a pair of Chicago patrolmen, the play by Keith Huff isn’t so much a police procedural as it is a study of what happens when miscreant cops flush proper procedures.

Mike Waugh, among Oklahoma City’s finest actors, has worked with about every theater company in town, but this may be the performance of his career, so far. His character, Denny, is the bad cop in the twosome. Waugh burns with a visceral intensity that fills CST’s small space. It’s an extraordinary performance.

Ben Hall as the good cop, Joey, matches Waugh’s performance with a quieter intensity. Joey has a drinking problem, and Denny exploits his partner’s co-dependency to the point of cruelty. Beat cops — at least as portrayed in this play — develop relationships akin to marriages, and Joey is much like an abused wife, right down to getting punched around sometimes by Denny. Joey’s integrity and efforts at self-improvement seem almost naive compared to Denny’s racism and corner-cutting.

Linda McDonald’s well-conceived staging presents “Rain” before a painted wall of mottled blue and gray with only two wooden chairs as props.

The actors are in civilian attire instead of police uniforms, and we know why by the end. The way McDonald moves the actors around the stage keeps the light-board operator busy. Scott Hynes’ lighting design efficiently shapes the production, considering CST’s limited facilities.

Denny and Joey aspire to be detectives, but have issues that interfere with promotions. Some racist remarks made in the officers’ locker room resulted in “grievances” filed against them.

Huff’s script is largely episodic, but the stories are vivid and authentic, as he reveals the characters’ depth and complexity. Denny and Joey also narrate the play, so although only two actors are onstage, the audience “sees” Rhonda, the hooker whom Denny would like to get into secretarial school; and Connie, Denny’s wife; their kids; and even the dog.

The work takes place during a rain-soaked Chicago summer. I’m not sure, but the weather sound effect must be some kind of unifying device. It doesn’t matter, because what takes place onstage and in your imagination breeds the success of this show.

 
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