The public is becoming more and more aware of the dangerous power wielded by the nation's police. We're learning that as cops charge into civilian neighborhoods, they're armed with equipment developed for military combat -- and few of them have the training to handle such equipment. With the explosion of social media, we've seen myriad images of police shootings and beatings, of people being tasered (there have been an estimated 215 taser deaths in the past five years), and even a terrible prolonged strangulation. Against this background, A Steady Rain, first produced in 2007, tells the striking story of a rogue cop.
Denny is not above petty infractions; he has his scams; he's on the take from prostitutes. Yet in his own sick way, he's committed to logic and the motto to "protect and serve." At the play's beginning, his transgressions seem minor and his intentions benevolent. His partner, Joey, has been a pal since boyhood, though Denny was always the bullying dominant of the two. Denny likes having Joey over for dinner; he wants to show his single friend the pleasures of a home-cooked meal and a settled married life -- and introduces him to Rhonda, a prostitute. Denny does have some genuinely kind impulses. For instance, he plans to pay for Rhonda to go to college and wants to help take care of her baby. How he could do all this on a cop's salary -- even given his grubby little financial malfeasances -- is one of several unbelievable aspects of the play.
While author Keith Huff's play has drive and force -- and fits well with Edge Theatre's mission of staging edgy, contemporary works -- it is also full of problems: turns of plot you can't quite swallow, minor and major inconsistencies. Denny's toddler is hurt by a flying shard of glass, and even though it sounds as if the glass sliced the child's face without penetrating bone, there are ominous comments from doctors about possible brain damage. Just what did that shard of glass do? We don't need a full medical explanation, just a few convincing details. Because as it is, the kid just seems like a plot device to explain Denny's increasing craziness and desperation. Sometimes you get the sense of an author throwing in everything he can get his hands on just to keep things rolling forward fast and hard -- fights, murder, car accidents, accidental deaths, wounds, a dead hooker, a murderous pimp, wife abuse, gangrene, alcohol and every kind of drug -- and no sooner have Denny and Joey absorbed one devastating plot twist than they're racing full-tilt toward the next.
Joey is attempting to rein in his racist impulses, if only because he wants a promotion, but Denny sees nothing wrong with spitting out racial epithets. A central incident is based on a real event from the saga of cannibalistic murderer Jeffrey Dahmer. Konerak Sinthasomphone, fourteen years old, escaped from Dahmer's apartment, bleeding, drugged and incoherent. Neighbors called the police, but although two young neighborhood women tried to prevent it, the responding officers took Sinthasomphone back to Dahmer's apartment after Dahmer told them that he and the boy were lovers. There the boy was killed and dismembered. Denny and Joey have to deal with a similar situation, and it's clear that racism plays a role in their decision-making. It's a potent moment, but while Denny does express a little sorrow, it's hard not to feel that it was included purely for shock value. What you're watching is melodrama -- albeit skillful and intelligent melodrama.
That the production ends up working as well as it does is very much due to director Terry Dodd and his two actors, all three of whom explore the material with depth and integrity. Rick Yaconis has the more overtly emotional role of Denny, and he plays it full-throttle, transforming from a genial, conventional Italian cop to the embodiment of spiritual ugliness in front of your eyes. Joey could easily be overwhelmed by Denny's lurid antics, but as the quieter, kinder member of the duo, Scott Bellot more than holds his own, creating a quiet and sadly matter-of-fact man who has his own murky inner life.
A Steady Rain, presented by Edge Theater Company, runs through September 28 at 1560 Teller Street, Lakewood, 303-232-0363. For ticket information, go to theedgetheatre.com.
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