Joey (Thomas Vincent Kelly) and Denny (Sal Viscuso) are Chicago beat cops and lifelong friends. Denny is a tough-talking bigot who supplements his income by shaking down prostitutes and the gentler, alcoholic Joey loyally provides cover. One rainy night, they make a terrible mistake in judgment that puts their lives into a tailspin. As Denny descends into a nightmare world of drug abuse and sordid sex, Joey takes charge of the once-proud family man’s wife and children.
Huff’s play is a duologue, with the characters alternatively addressing each other, a police investigation committee and the audience itself. Times and locations shift, too, but so well-crafted is the piece that the plot always remains clear. Huff, whose credits include writing and co-producing the acclaimed series House of Cards and Mad Men, has a real ear for the milieu; he drags his characters into a vortex that is as compelling as it is horrifying.
The Odyssey has done a terrific job with this production. Adam Flemming’s set, consisting simply of two chairs and three screens upon which evocative images are projected, places the focus on the intensity of the subject matter. It’s expertly directed by Steppenwolf Theatre Company co-founder Jeff Perry, and kudos must also go to the imaginative lighting by Michael Gend and sound by John Zalewski, which incorporates the titular rain and contributes to the sense of unease.
Viscuso breathes fire as the profane and hotheaded Denny, while Kelly brings humanity to the deceptively weaker Joey. They play off each other very well, making it all the more tragic to witness their relationship disintegrating in a series of betrayals. Though there were a couple of fluffed lines opening weekend, their performances are impressive, especially considering the complexity of the material.
A Steady Rain plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., with some select Wednesday and Thursday performances, through April 20 at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, 2055 Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles. Reservations and information can be obtained online or by calling (310) 477-2055, extension 2.