“A Steady Rain” is an Emotional Storm

How far would you go to protect your best friend?  Would you lie for him?  Would you cover for him?  Would you betray him?  These are the themes explored in Keith Huff’s heavy drama A Steady Rain to be presented at the Omaha Community Playhouse on November 9 as part of their Alternative Programming Series.

Huff’s script is one of the most inventive pieces of drama I’ve come across.  It’s designed as a duologue with its two actors sometimes talking to the audience and sometimes to each other.  It’s also one of the mightiest pieces of drama I have ever seen.  Huff starts this story in a pretty rough spot and proceeds to drag it into darker and bleaker places using the metaphor of rain that gets heavier and harder as the tribulations pile on the two characters.

Christina Rohling’s direction is pluperfect.  This show has a large number of beats and Ms Rohling fully understands each and every one intimately.  She has mined this show and discovered a treasure trove of emotion and storytelling to share with the audience through the 2 dynamite performances she has shaped with her two actors.

Out of the many characters Nick Zadina has created for the Omaha public, I truly believe his portrayal of Denny eclipses them all.  Zadina has all of Denny’s complexities firmly in the palm of his hand and presents them in a piece of acting majesty.  When the play begins, Zadina’s Denny appears to be a jokey, lighthearted police officer who is helping his best friend and partner, Joey, beat the bottle.  A noble act, to be sure, but Denny is not a good man.  Yes, he does love his family and friend, but he is abusive, corrupt, a philanderer, and arrogant.

Zadina’s mastery of the beats is jaw dropping as his delivery just drips nuance from moment to moment.  Zadina remains engaged in the performance for the duration and some of his best moments occur when he isn’t speaking and is simply reacting to the things Joey says.  Zadina paints a masterpiece of a man on top of the world who slowly devolves into a shadow of his former self due to 2 tragic events.

Aaron Sailors is equally up to the challenge as Denny’s partner, Joey.  When the play begins, Joey is at rock bottom due to alcohol addiction.  Thanks to Denny “adopting” him, he’s been able to overcome the addiction and begin building a better life for himself.  Sailors brings a fierce loyalty to Joey which is rather surprising considering that Denny roughed up Joey quite a bit as a child.  But he has remained staunchly loyal to Denny.

At first, Joey seems a bit similar to Denny as both seem slightly racist and are frustrated with their inability to get promoted to detectives.  After attending a race seminar, Joey proves he was always a better man than Denny.  Sailors gives Joey an inherent decency which is sometimes misguided as he covers Denny’s more sordid doings, but he also proves himself a better father and companion to Denny’s wife and children than Denny himself.

What I found most intriguing about the show was that, whether by design or coincidence, Zadina and Sailors bear a very strong resemblance to each other.  This aids the story as it shows how remarkably similar they are and makes the parallel roads they travel more marked when Joey rises as Denny falls.  I wish this could be a full scale production as this show is truly something special.  Do not miss out on your chance to see this production as it will be a highlight of the season.

A Steady Rain plays at the Omaha Playhouse for one night on November 9.  Showtime is at 7:30pm and admission is free.  This show contains extremely strong language and mature subject matter and is not recommended for children.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

The Arizona Chronicles, Vol. 2, Day 2: Arizona Mat and the Very Bad Day

I awoke the next morning with a pounding headache and a sore throat.  I was hoping this sore throat was due to going through a number of berserk weather changes, but given how much my strength was sapped, I began to fear that it was of the viral variety.  Oh, well.  Nothing much that I could do except take it easy.  Given how weak I felt, I contacted the SyFy rep and rescheduled our meeting for next week.

In the meantime, I went into the kitchen and fixed myself a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon and washed it down with a cold glass of water which coated my throat nicely.  I then took a long, hot bath in an attempt to draw out some toxins and eliminate my sore throat more quickly.

After my bath, I diddled around on Arizona Mat’s computer, playing both the original Shadowgate (a classic text adventure game) as well as working on the beta version of the upcoming reboot of the game.  While I gamed, Arizona Mat came out of his bedroom and seemed none the worse for wear.

“Where’s Tall Square?” he asked.

“Nome, AK,” I replied before filling in the details of what had happened the previous day.

“I’ll send him a pair of pants,” said Arizona Mat as he went to get his own breakfast.

While Arizona Mat sat on the couch and munched, the doorbell rang.  He answered the door and there stood a UPS man with a package.

“Package for Mr. Arizona Mat,” said the UPS man.

“That’s me,” said Arizona Mat as he grabbed the package and shut the door in the UPS man’s face.  “That’s strange.  There’s no return address.”

I casually shrugged my shoulders and went to the kitchen to get some more water.  I heard Arizona Mat open the box and a few moments later, I heard a loud BAMF!!  I turned to look at Arizona Mat and saw him holding a smoldering package, his face and hair now blackened by soot.  I stifled a chuckle as he now reminded me of a victim of Jokey Smurf and his explosive surprises.

“I’m going to go wash up,” Arizona Mat said tightly.

As he cleaned himself up, a car pulled into the driveway and a young man came into the house.  He introduced himself as Mongrel, another sidekick of Arizona Mat’s.  He was a tall man with a sharp, chiseled chin and ash blonde hair.  Mongrel was quite a bit more likable than Tall Square so I could only conclude that he was either the most laid back guy in the world or hadn’t had enough exposure to Arizona Mat’s neurotic behavior.  Apparently, he had been acting as caretaker of the estate while Arizona Mat and Tall Square had been engaged in their handshake duel.

After washing up, Arizona Mat announced that we were going to go play frisbee golf at Paseo Vista.  It was a rather pleasant outing as we had gone out early enough in the day so the weather was hot, but not scorching.  That is, it was a pleasant outing until the 12th hole.  Arizona Mat’s shot had gone a little wide and he went to retrieve his frisbee at the same time that a car was exiting the course.  As soon as the driver caught sight of Arizona Mat, he or she gunned the motor and started chasing after him.

Mongrel and I scrambled to the top of one of the retaining walls and watched as the car pursued Arizona Mat all over the course, tearing up the ground and mowing down the plant life.  I’ll say this.  For a stocky guy, Arizona Mat could really sprint.  Mongrel and I attempted to call 911, but we were out of range of cellular towers and could only watch as Arizona Mat was hunted like an animal.  I tried to get a look at the driver, but the windows were tinted.

Finally, Arizona Mat managed to get inside one of the tunnel obstacles on the course.  Too sturdy for the car to hit and too narrow for the car to continue chasing Arizona Mat.  Reluctantly, the car turned around and left the course.

“Are you all right?” I asked the “explorer”.

“Of course I am,” Arizona Mat replied with his customary egoism.  “All in a day’s work for an intrepid explorer.”

“I think we should call the police,” said Mongrel.

“No.  Undoubtedly, it was some deranged fan.  I’m certain he’ll disappear and trouble me no further.”

So what have we learned, kids?  Nothing helps a problem more like ignoring it.

We returned to Arizona Mat’s home and he and Mongrel decided to swim in the pool while I decided to lie down for a little bit, as the heat and sore throat were rapidly sapping my vitality.  I ended up catching a catnap and when I awoke 40 minutes later, I decided I wanted to swim too.

As I began to head out to the pool, I heard a series of smacks and splats.  I gazed out the window and saw Arizona Mat and Mongrel seemingly slapping the water with foam noodles for no apparent reason.  As I looked more closely, I saw that the two were actually being attacked by a small army.

Wasps!  Hundreds of them flitted around the two.  They were using the water to avoid being bitten and using the noodles and their hands to swat the pests.  I saw that the wasps seemed to be coming from behind Arizona Mat’s waterfall, so I rummaged through his garage and found a bug bomb and carefully made my way behind the waterfall, covering myself with a towel to avoid being bitten.

When I made it behind the waterfall, I found the culprit.  Someone had left a wasp’s farm behind the waterfall.  I activated the bomb and watched as the wasps began to succumb to its effects.

“I really think we should call the police,” I said a short time later.

“Never!” declared Arizona Mat.  “I laugh in the face of danger.”

I rolled my eyes and saw Mongrel sadly shaking his head.

After the insect jamboree, Arizona Mat took us to dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings where we enjoyed a night of good food and trivia.  Our table dominated the trivia night which prompted Arizona Mat to constantly whoop and holler.  Finally one of the patrons seemed to have had enough and told Arizona Mat to shut up.

“Bite me!” replied Arizona Mat.

“I think I don’t like you,” replied the patron.

Arizona Mat ignored him.

“I said, I don’t think I like you,” repeated the patron.

Arizona Mat continued ignoring him.

“Are you listening to me?” asked the patron.

“There’s a fine line between not listening and not caring and I like to think I walk that line every day,” said Arizona Mat smugly.

The patron pulled Arizona Mat from his stool and the  fight was on.  Soon everybody in the joint was getting into it.  I ducked behind the bar with a couple of the pretty waitresses and got their numbers while I watched the place turn into a shambles.  As the brawl intensified, I looked out the window and saw a powerfully built figure standing by a car, intensely watching.  As police cars began pulling up to the restaurant, the figure got into a car and drove away.

After I bailed Arizona Mat out of jail, I told him that I suspected that the fight had been deliberately started.

“Of course it was.  Nobody starts one accidentally.”

“No, I mean somebody got that guy to pick a fight with you.”

“Nonsense.”

As we pulled into Arizona Mat’s driveway, we all saw that someone had painted a message on his garage door.

PLEASANT DREAMS, ARIZONA MAT.  TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY.

Mongrel and I looked at Arizona Mat who had visibly paled.