‘A Steady Rain’ at Chicago Dramatists: the record-breaking cop drama returns to its Chicago roots in full force

Peter DeFaria and Randy Steinmeyer in “A Steady Rain.”

Officer Denny’s the hot-headed one. When stabbed in the leg with a sharpened broom handle while on duty, he pours rubbing alcohol in the wound and goes about his day. When things get tough, he takes matters in his own hands, even if it means bending a few rules.

Joey is the loyal, tender one. He strives to do what’s right, but is often overcome by Denny’s persuasiveness, physical or otherwise. A reluctantly middle-aged bachelor, he’s recently hit rock bottom, and Denny has pulled him out of his darkest hole and built him back up.

Denny and Joey grew up together, became officers together. They spend the day breathing the same air in the same musty squad car. Denny and Joey would take a bullet for one another, do whatever it takes to support one another. The combination of these traits, as noble as they might sound, soon dissolves into an earth-shattering moral dilemma that tests their bond and creates a raw, gripping nightmare.

Co-produced by Chicago Commercial Collective, Keith Huff’s award-winning play A Steady Rain makes a return engagement at Chicago Dramatists, where it originated in 2008 (starring Randy Steinmeyer and Peter DeFaria, who repeat their roles as Denny and Joey, respectively, here). The play went on to became a huge Chicago hit before moving to Broadway to star Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman, where it broke box office records. I missed the original production, as well as its subsequent move to the Royal George Theatre. So, last night was my first time seeing Huff’s powerful, 95 minute play — and, well, it more than lived up to expectations.

Director Russ Tutterow keeps this two-hander taught like a tiger poised to attack. Things start off jovial and jabbing, with Joey and Denny giving us a bit of the old back-and-forth. Steinmeyer and DeFaria rattle off Huff’s gritty, succinct dialogue with ease. But then the coils get tightened when Denny’s professional life comes, quite literally, shattering through his living room window. In an attempt to pick up the pieces, the downward spiral has already begun.

My first Huff play was The Detective’s Wife, produced last season by Writers’ Theatre and starring the formidable Barbara Robertson. Though a vastly inferior play, Huff’s ability to tell a story that leads you into a wholly arresting world of intrigue and danger kept me engaged (which was helped, in no small part, by Robertson’s intensely committed performance). It’s clear now why reviewers were so disappointed by Detective’s Wife — they were hoping for another Steady Rain. And who can blame them? This play, under this director with these performances, is a DO NOT MISS.

As I’ve said in my tweet directly following last night’s performance, after a long theatrical drought, it’s so refreshing to encounter A Steady Rain.

“A Steady Rain” plays through September 2 at Chicago Dramatists. More info here >

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