A theatre-fan may be surprised to find themselves walking through the doors of The Penthouse Nightclub, under a sign that reads “Less Fake News, More Fake Boobs,” to watch an acclaimed play about two Chicago cops.
Yet, the intense two-character play, A Steady Rain, proved it is remarkably well-suited to the intimate, dim theatre on the top floor of the Penthouse on its opening night, Friday, Feb 16.
A Steady Rain (Feb. 16-Mar. 3) is a dual-monologue told by Denny and Joey, cop partners and best friends. It has been played on several stages since it was written in 2007 by Keith Huff.
Even as the characters stand side-by-side, their stories slowly diverge, each recounting the same incidents with different memories, different details, and different meaning. As the cops take turns directly imploring the audience, every viewer feels like they are taking a testimony and must judge which story is true.
At times, Joey’s and Denny’s stories re-align, usually in moments of comradery or intense emotion. A notable example is a pivotal scene based off a 1991 exchange between two real cops and serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer. Joey and Denny respond to a call about a young boy running naked in the street. They assume he is on drugs and return him to a man who says he is the boy’s uncle. The man turns out to be a cannibalistic serial killer, and Joey or Denny must take the fall for the fatal mistake.
“I failed the kid,” Denny shouted painfully to the audience, “Ain’t that punishment enough?”
Moments like these explore the immense consequences of making mistakes as a cop. However, Denny and Joey also knowingly breech protocol multiple times. As much as they try to justify their actions to the audience, neither fulfills the role of a perfect cop or a perfect hero.
The play also touches on the issue of as racism within the police force, with each of the cops being reprimanded for racial slurs. The play seems to explore how old-fashioned systems of authority are conflicting with a changing world, and how conservative, white cops must catch up or be left behind.
Daniel Deorksen emitted a quiet, suppressed energy as Joey. He stared out wide-eyed and alert at the audience, only softening when he described his relationship with Denny’s family.
This was directly contrasted by David Newham’s portrayal as Denny, who is loud and crude, with his own ideas of justice he is willing to defend to a fault. But as Denny becomes more unstable, Newham was also able to convincingly convey a new vulnerability in the character.
The two actors give gritty, authentic performances with enough momentum to feel like the play flies by. While Deorksen was tightly wound and would fold into his body, Newham demanded space.
Yet, Deorksen and Newham created a deep sense of history between their characters, a years-long friendship the audience could easily envision. They embodied the competing personalities of Joey and Denny while still having the audience believe in their friendship.
Perhaps their professional partnership helped make their friendship on stage so convincing – Deorksen and Newham both studied acting in Vancouver, and are founders of the Seven Tyrants Theatre Society, in which they have written, produced and performed several plays, including A Steady Rain.
A Steady Rain explores themes of truth, morality, duty, and friendship. Each viewer is bound to change their minds throughout the play of who and what to believe. An excellent showcase of homegrown-talent, this modern-day classic retelling in an iconic Vancouver venue is not to be missed.