Bad Cops, Good Show: A STEADY RAIN is pouring at Theatre Memphis


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There's not much I hate more than driving in the city at night in a steady rain. It’s like being on bad drugs. The sky’s the same color as the black top. The illuminated signs and streetlights reflect against the wet pavement distorting depth perception, confusing up and down. Police cars speed past, blue lights popping off like flashbulbs, kicking up a spray of oil and water. Keith Huff’s A Steady Rain is perfectly named. Although it takes place in Chicago, the story could have been ripped from the headlines of any Memphis media outlet. It’s a dark yarn about a flawed, but basically good cop with a drinking problem and his big-hearted but basically amoral buddy. Their entanglement in petty street crime turns into a revengers tragedy of Jacobean proportions. Was that The Wire? Or was it just last week?


For all of it’s currency, Rain is also a throwback in the spirit of countless backlot movie classics about real life in the mean streets; childhood friendships that endure even when buddies find themselves on opposite sides of right and wrong. Even when they're caught in a bad romance.

Rain requires actors who are also great storytellers. Two overlapping monologues create the framework of a play that unfolds with the cinematic ease of narrative theater. John Maness and John Moore are the only two actors on stage and they only ever portray the two cops at the heart of the drama, but audiences are introduced to an ecosystem of interesting personalities getting by at the rough edges of law and order.

A Steady Rain is loosely based on the story of two cops who accidently released a man into the custody of serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer. But it’s not really about that. It’s about family, loyalty, and the same kind of demonic urge that ripples through D.H. Lawrence’s Rocking Horse Winner: “There must be more money, there must be more money...

Joey (Maness) is the good cop. He’s not drinking and trying to be more racially sensitive. He’s not going to be passed over for detective again. Denny (Moore) is the bad cop, skimming evidence, and shaking down the prostitutes he says he’s protecting. We’ve heard this story a thousand times before, but this time around it’s especially intimate. It’s like watching an autopsy of a relationship. Detached but invasive, probing, and effortlessly gruesome.

The play is directed by Jerry Chipman with a relentless and effective sound design by Eric Sefton who, in this case, might as well take credit for scenic design as well.

This show deserves a longer run and time to find its audience. Its needs are few and it would be great if the two Johns could somehow keep it in their gig bags.

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