The Fugard Theatre’s powerful production A Steady Rain doesn’t disappoint. I attended the pre-opening of playwright Keith Huff’s award-winning Broadway hit last night and was transfixed by the high-quality performance! Before the Fugard run, actors Brent Palmer and Nicholas Pauling performed the two-man play for sold-out audiences at the Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre.
Palmer and Pauling are brilliant in the “gritty, rich, and entirely gripping noir tale of two morally compromised Chicago police officers whose inner need to serve and protect consumes them and rips them apart”. The play takes place with two actors and a simple set of three props (two chairs and a table) highlighted by excellent lighting. The scenes alternate between “separate monologues and present-moment dialogues” requiring the actors to memorize an incredible amount of text. They slay the Chicago accent!
After years as a successful actor, including a role in the television series Black Sails filmed in Cape Town, Adrian Collins makes his début directing the production. Collins and Palmer were Fleur du Cap award nominees this year for Best New Director and Best Actor.
A Steady Rain takes the audience on a “riveting, relentless journey”. Huff uses “razor-sharp story-telling” to portray the tormented lives of two Chicago police officers, Joey and Denny, who are longtime beat partners and childhood friends.
“Joey and Denny have serious problems. Joey struggles with alcohol while he secretly obsesses over Denny’s wife. Denny is resentful, aggressive, and a racist cheater. During the course of the compelling and devastating narrative, the audience is kept white-knuckled right until the moment the lights go down”.
The plot recounts a real-life event involving infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s encounter with the Chicago Police. It focuses on the policemen who “unknowingly return a Vietnamese boy to the cannibalistic serial killer who claims to be the child’s uncle”. When the boy becomes Dahmer’s latest victim the two partners are pressured to take responsibility for their gross negligence in assessing the situation. As the play unravels it reaches a critical point threatening their friendship.
Writer, director, and actor, Brent Palmer is a native of the Western Cape. He grew up in Grassy Park, a suburb of Cape Town in Cape Flats. He trained to be an actor in London. Palmer has appeared in TV and film and stared in theater productions at the Baxter, Artscape, Fugard, Maynardville, and University of Cape Town’s Little Theatre.
Palmer has written four plays. Two of his plays – Bench and Witness – won Fleur Du Cap awards. The multi-talented Palmer is also a stand-up comedian. He appears at local theatres and has directed and co-written shows for other comedians.
Produced in Chicago in 2007, the acclaimed play won multiple awards. It made its Broadway début in September 2009 starring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig.
In a compelling and right-on-the money review of the play Steven Oxman of Variety (magazine) observed, “Keith Huff’s cracker jack two-hander … turns out to be less like the perpetual drizzle of its title and more like a snowball that builds to an avalanche. While Huff starts with a couple of familiar characters — good cop/bad cop Chicago patrolmen with alcohol and racism issues — he deepens them into complex figures, compellingly human even at their most despicable. The adroit character development combines with a billowing narrative to deliver some rattling emotional crescendos…. While he could maybe pull back on a contrivance or two, the playwright smartly sticks to his conceit of piling one worse complication on top of another, effectively investing A Steady Rain with genuine dramatic power and a sense of true outrage.”
Loose strands of the spellbinding plot draw together in the play’s masterful. It wasn’t light entertainment but gripping, well-performed drama at its very best. Cape Town has provided an incredibly rich live-theatre experience during this visit!