“A Steady Rain” is a gripping thriller about a violent cop who self destructs.

By Lucy Komisar

A Steady Rain by Keith Huff, a television script writer, is a thriller about two beat cops, partners, friends from childhood, that would seem to belong on TV. On the other hand, some of the events they describe are so bloody, that I’d rather see them described in the two interlocking monologues that make up the play rather than watch them in full color.

The stories are gripping. On the other hand, like most TV, you forget them pretty quickly.

A Steady Rain,

Joey (Daniel Craig) a lonesome bachelor. His partner, Denny (Hugh Jackman), is a foul-mouthed, violent man who has a low level of judgment and a high sense of entitlement. He’s been reprimanded for racist remarks. (He calls a Vietnamese kid a rice puppy.) Both have been passed over for promotion to detective, and Denny is resentful, thinking it’s because he’s white. (He is Italian, Joey is Irish.) Joey tries to keep his partner from acting out his anger.

Good actors are more plentiful than good plays. Craig and Jackson leave no daylight between their real selves and the characters. Craig’s Joey is diffident, for a cop. Jackson’s Denny has a trigger-happy personality. He speaks with a sneer.

Director John Crowley makes you forget that all you really have is two guys delivering monologues. His fast pace never lets up.

For all the action, this is a character show. Denny’s predilection to shake down and sleep with streetwalkers and beat up their pimps is not only bad police work, but it will put him on a road to self-destruction. Not to mention interfering with his family life. Denny is a man who rationalizes everything. He says he lets prostitutes work to help them and the economy.

When a bullet smashes Denny’s window and falling glass injures his 2-year-old son, the violence escalates. The rest is gory details.

A Steady Rain,

There’s not a lot of subtlety. Huff shows how fragile is Denny’s view of being someone special: he brags when he gets a call from the Neilson TV rating agency that he is now a Nielson family. The fact that Joey will move up in his circumstances is telegraphed by the fact he wears a suit with white shirt and suspenders while Denny dresses in blue sport shirt.

Sets by Scott Pask are stark. There’s usually just a black backdrop with two hanging lamps of the sort identified with police stations. Sometimes the brown front of tenement or a courtyard is lit up. The rest is left to your imagination. If you like police melodramas, you’ll probably like this one. Otherwise, when the lights come up, you’ll be surprised that you’re not at home in front of the TV.

A Steady Rain. Written by Keith Huff, Directed by John Crowley. Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 West 45th Street, New York City. 212-239-6200. Opened Sept. 29, 2009, Closes Dec. 6, 2009.

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