The dark, twisted view of the world and its inhabitants held by a lot of cops has long been the stuff of great drama, from the gritty novels of Joseph Wambaugh to any number of movies about rogue police (Internal Affairs, Bad Lieutenant, L.A. Confidential, et al.). Now theater has its own noir thriller, A Steady Rain, Keith Huff's one-act play about two Chicago cops in trouble at American Stage.
Huff obviously spent a lot of time hanging around precinct stations, because the pulpy dialogue of his play captures the profane poetry of beat cops perfectly. He even gives them a dimension beyond their workaday concerns with low-life hustlers and informants, having one policeman discuss the ins and outs of the Nielsen ratings just before a bullet shatters his living room window (and his 52-inch TV).
Drew DeCaro and Justin Campbell are partners in A Steady Rain, and there's an almost Shakespearean gravity and rightness to their relationship. DeCaro's Joey is an alcoholic Irish type, a tough but sensitive loner living in a "one-room chinch pad looking over an alley." Campbell's Denny is the bad cop, shaking down prostitutes and bar owners, but he also fashions himself as the ultimate good guy, fixing up his pal Joey for a home-cooked dinner with a hooker, then bedding her himself.
The two make a horrific mistake in judgment on patrol one rainy night. Rushed and distracted by Denny's preoccupation with seeking revenge against whomever took the potshot through his window, they return a frightened, naked Vietnamese boy to "this beefy blond guy, he looked like a surfer" who said he was the boy's uncle. "He seemed decent. He really did," said Joey of the "uncle," who was actually a "cannibal killer" not unlike Jeffrey Dahmer. The whole neighborhood — which Denny calls "Deviant Corners" — saw the cops turn the boy over to his killer, and they land in hot water for dereliction of duty.
DeCaro and Campbell give powerful performances, but in the end Huff's taut drama unravels and goes way over the top. Increasingly disheveled and drug addicted, the self-justifying Denny comes to adopt the perverted logic that murder is an acceptable problem solver, and the body count piles up. The staging by T. Scott Wooten is starkly minimalistic, with only a metal table and chairs, and the sound design (by Wooten) and lighting (Phillip Franck) is a spookily atmospheric mix of dripping rain, punctuated by the crash of thunder and flash of lightning.
A Steady Rain runs through May 6 at the St. Petersburg theater, where it shares the bill with another one-act play, 2.5 Minute Ride (they are ticketed separately). $29. (727) 823-7529; americanstage.org.
Just in time for Good Friday and Passover, there's a concert of (very) modern music by USF professor and composer Paul Reller. Executive Outcomes, In Praise of Buddy Hackett, Greyfield and more will be played by longtime Reller interpreters pianist Corey Holt Merenda, flutist Margaret Lancaster, percussionist Bob McCormick and others at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the USF Barness Recital Hall, Tampa. $8-$15. (813) 974-2323; boxoffice.arts.usf.edu.
John Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8716.