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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
A STEADY RAIN
at the Gerald Schoenfeld

JOEY, DENNY AND A WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN
By MATT WOLF

  Daniel Craig (R) and Hugh Jackman/ Ph: Joan Marcus

What is it with Hollywood stars taking to the stage and inclement weather? Three and a half years after Julia Roberts braved 45th Street (and critical brickbats) in a revival of Richard Greenberg's Three Days of Rain, along come two seasoned theater fellas—film stars Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig—to take up residency next door to where Roberts previously caused a media melee, in a Chicago play by New York unknown Keith Huff called A Steady Rain. In both cases, the storm of interest surrounding the play in question threatens to capsize the show itself, though our Bond/Wolverine double-act are to be commended for abseiling to Broadway from their heroic action movie heights only to take on a play that questions the very nature of heroism.
 
"Superhuman, that's what they want us to be," gripes Jackman's Denny, an Italian-American Chicago cop on the skids who has been best friends with Craig's Irish-American (and alcoholic) Joey since "kinnygarten." And that may be what audiences want, too, especially with premium tickets approaching $400 a pop, which is a lot of money to pay to find out that your screen icon of choice is flawed.
 
So, for that matter, is Huff's play. I can imagine dazzling people coming to it with no expectations in a studio space, as was apparently the case when it was first seen in the Windy City with a cast made up of two highly regarded local actors. Pumped up for Broadway, it often feels like an outline for a play as opposed to the play itself. Huff's overlapping narrative is less contrapuntally effective in the manner of, say, Brian Friel than seeming like a shorthand for describing events that on film would be dramatized directly. (Small wonder with this cast that A Steady Rain has been snapped up for the screen.)
 
On stage, it feels like an extended acting exercise that will doubtless keep enterprising drama students the world over happy for some time to come—especially those keen to work on their Chicago accents, as Craig does to better effect than Jackman. Indeed, as the play follows the men's abject course across 85 minutes, there's a growing sense that Craig has far more fully submerged his big-screen appeal, making himself seem smaller (and growing a moustache) in order to play the apparent loner who infiltrates himself into the domestic life of his longtime buddy and fellow beat officer. Seeming to take a back seat to Jackman's expansive, superficially genial Denny, Craig's Joey is the one who against the odds takes command of a story whose body count is not only Jacobean in scope but is monitored audibly by an audience busy registering alta voce every unfortunate and gruesome twist of fate.
 
A Steady Rain features quite a few such turns, as one might expect from a play whose title itself promises torrents of Biblical proportions, which get washed away in time for an ending that turns at least one of our two boys rather unconvincingly towards the light. (The exact same imagery, for what it's worth, fuels Next To Normal, A Steady Rain's Broadway neighbor, which ends a show about mental illness defiantly staring into the light just as Hair, with its closing invocation of "sunshine," famously did before it.) I suppose, with that in mind, that it's appropriately ironic for Jackman for much of the play to radiate his own sunny good will, his true thoughts better glimpsed during those moments when Craig takes center stage and Jackman can be seen glowering as he looks on. But the role of the casually racist Denny desperately needs a character actor who can come at the part head on, not an Australian song-and-dance man (in the theater, at least) possessed of indecent amounts of charisma who may at this point simply be too used to working an auditorium—that's all those Tony and Oscar shows for you!—to take the tumble into the abyss required by a script that is both highly local and, on this evidence, very international. (Of the creative team, set designer Scott Pask is the only one who is, in fact, American.)
 
The director, John Crowley, was last represented on Broadway by The Pillowman, a play whose storytelling cast a hypnotic, disturbing, and revelatory weave. A Steady Rain has stories to tell, and then some, but audiences will be hypnotized not by the tale told but by the dual sight of two emblematic movie men right there in three dimensions. From a darkened cinema, Craig and Jackman, much like the trajectory of the play itself, have moved into the light, and for many playgoers, it may be enough simply to bask in their glow.
 


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