Keith Huff's best-known work is found in the hallowed spaces
of US television, as a writer for potent office dramas such as AMC's
Filled with car chases, hospital visits, vengeful pimps and a steady progression of gritty mishaps
For its London premiere, pooling its acting talent from two disparate worlds – Vincent Reagan's action movies (300, Troy, Clash of the Titans) and David Schaal's British cringe-comedy (The Inbetweeners, The Office) – the stage is set for a tense bureaucratic tussle.
Watching two men argue around a table has been done to death and resurrection, but A Steady Rain has more than enough life in its lines and love of the genre to keep it afloat. A determined cop noir, the play works wonders with its brand of stylised on-the-beat humdrum; the stained metal, decrepit water-cooler, and odd drip from a leaking ceiling creating a coherent world with little effort.
The actors, though following in the rather large footsteps of Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig (who starred in the Broadway run), slip easily into their roles. The buddy-cop dynamic is truthful enough here to shrug off most of the cliché thrown at them, and keep the atmosphere buoyant, if a little too nonchalant, considering Denny's brutality towards his suspects and the lurking threat of a cannibal serial killer. Tension is left to simmer, rather than boil, and there's little threat in Denny's description of his assaults.
Filled with car chases, hospital visits, vengeful pimps and a steady progression of gritty mishaps and injuries, the play tries hard to be eventful, but the character conflict is what keeps it engaging – and two commendable performances from Reagan and Schaal stop the plot from slacking where it could have.
It's a strong story, albeit one that feels a need to explicate its emotional turns – the more basic parts of this character study roll off as if turning on the director's commentary. Some intriguing dynamics between casual racism and PC language are also left underdeveloped in favour of more predictable story tropes. Ultimately, A Steady Rain is a faithful genre piece that doesn't question its format too closely, though the end result is consistent, enjoyable, and clear evidence that Huff's writing career was always going places.