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.