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Joey and Denny don't agree
Joey and Denny don't agreeEnci

Theater: "A Steady Rain"

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It isn’t easy being a cop on the take if you’ve got a partner who isn’t.

But for Denny, that behavior is routine, as he knows his partner, Joey, always has his back.

The two men have been best friends since childhood. They established their respective roles in their relationship at a very early age. Denny is the dominant one, playfully but forcefully pummeling his hesitant partner into accepting his decisions, excusing his moral lapses, and covering for him.

Joey follows because he has nothing else in his life that he can depend on except this loving friendship.

As playwright Keith Huff notes, this play, A Steady Rain, is not the typical cops-and-robbers, crime-and-punishment story. Instead, it is a story designed to ”probe the obligations and limits of friendship and love.”

Denny (Sal Viscuso) is a violent, self-righteous “shoot-first, ask-questions-later” kind of guy. But he is inordinately proud of having acquired a nice home, a supportive wife, and two sons. They mean everything to him, he says, yet he is not above fooling around with the prostitutes he “protects” and accepts money from.

Joey (Thomas Vincent Kelly), on the other hand, has nothing and nobody but Denny and his family. A long-time alcoholic, he is grateful to Denny for helping him to quit drinking and spends most of his free time at Denny’s home, eating dinner there nearly every night and sometimes sleeping over. As well as avoiding the many women that Denny is perpetually trying to fix him up with.

But Joey has a secret that everyone in the audience can readily guess, but that Denny appears to be oblivious of. It’s that Joey is in love with Denny’s wife, Connie.

In the course of their work, the trigger-happy Denny kills two young boys. The first, inadvertently, when he returns a naked, terrified Vietnamese boy to a man who claims to be his “uncle.” The second is a boy that Denny recognizes as the brother of the thug who threw a brick through the window of his home, splattering glass on his family.

Even though he is traumatized by the killings, Denny, as always, has a rationale for his behavior. And Joey agrees to take the rap so that Denny’s family won’t be destroyed.

It’s an intense play, even though it consists of only two men talking to each other. Under Jeff Perry’s deft direction the two manage to fill up the stage with consistently provocative exchanges and character revelations that leave you wondering who’s the good cop and who’s the bad.

Jeff Perry, it must be noted, is the co-founder of Chicago’s celebrated Steppenwolf Theatre and has a string of directing credits that have taken him and his casts to major venues around the world. Currently he is also acting, playing Cyrus Beene, the White House Chief of Staff on the ABC series Scandal.

A Steady Rain is also enhanced by the scenic and projection designs of Adam Flemming, winner of the L.A. Weekly Best Projection Design of the Year award for 2013. Flemming has ringed the empty stage with s series of screens that sometimes reflect, in soft pastels, the environment of the two men, and at other times abstract landscapes in misty gray, or an unidentifiable collection of shapes that leave you imagining objects as if they were contained in a sky-full of cumulus clouds. But surprisingly, the activity generated by the projections is largely unobtrusive. You are aware of them, but they don’t interfere with the conversation of the two fine actors on stage.

A Steady Rain can be seen Wednesday, March 19 and April 2, and Thursday March 27 and April 17 at 8 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, and Sunday, February 23 at 5 pm at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. in Los Angeles. The play runs through April 20th, but it’s best to call the theater to confirm the dates. The theater can be reached at (310) 477-2055 x2 or at www.OdysseyTheatre.com