A Steady Rain

Action megastars Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman patrol the mean Street.

  • THEY FOUGHT THE LAW Craig, left, and Jackman hunt for bad guys; Photographs:...

THEY FOUGHT THE LAW Craig, left, and Jackman hunt for bad guys; Photographs:...

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>2/5

In Keith Huff’s police melodrama A Steady Rain, Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman play hard-boiled Chicago cops whose morals and loyalty are pushed to the breaking point. But wait: Is this casting even remotely plausible? If the famously handsome, charismatic stars were to serve and protect Chicago’s dicier precincts, they’d slash crime rates in a week. The two are so physically commanding, so glowing, they wouldn’t need guns or handcuffs; men, women—perhaps even feral dogs—would meekly submit to their authority and, pupils deliquescing into heart shapes, gratefully slide into the backseat. It’s hard to buy them as morally troubled law enforcers whose lives spiral into a ridiculous, TV-level miasma of revenge, addiction and male rivalry.

However, this epitome of “event theater”—which in terms of writing is no event at all—raises a bigger question: Can producers not exploit brute celebritude for greater good? A Steady Rain is pulling down more than $1 million a week because starstruck hordes want nothing more than to be in the presence of the hunky duo; I wish they wanted more. Still, if the masses will swarm to anything, why not give them art? Why not put Craig and Jackman in a decent play, perhaps a double bill of The Dumb Waiter and The Zoo Story? Hell, I’d rather watch them enact the screenplay of Lethal Weapon than Huff’s clich-filled pile of good-cops-gone-bad tropes.

To be honest, the first hour of the script isn’t too bad, a briskly written he-said-he-said of dueling monologues (with occasional stretches of dialogue) in which we get to know the pair: Joey (Craig), a lonely, borderline-alcoholic beta male to alpha partner Denny (Jackman). Denny’s been skimming money from prostitutes on his beat and justifying the extracurricular cash as his way of protecting them from predatory pimps. It’s very logical to Denny (and he invokes logic quite a bit), but he can’t see the craven hypocrisy of his actions. Joey, meanwhile, covets Denny’s wife without even knowing it, and seems to be waiting for his erratic, self-destructive partner (who at some point starts shooting morphine) to exit the picture. A question hangs over the evening: Which of these guys do we believe?

Huff’s writing is often muscular (if steroidal in its testosterone-soaked excess), and the monologue-heavy format is ideal for two actors who spend most of their time in front of cameras making the most of crappy screenwriting. Not that our stars just stand and deliver in close-up: Craig has meticulously crafted a rich character, making himself schlubby and timid and showing off an excellent Chicago accent. Jackman, who couldn’t be unattractive if you dressed him in a garbage bag stuffed with tapioca pudding, at least exploits his good looks and robustness as the extroverted, aggressive Denny. But his accent is weak, and frankly, he’s not convincing as an Italian-American flatfoot who would screw a hooker on the side, use dope and ignore a gangrenous leg from a stab wound delivered by an enraged pimp. (It’s a long story.)

In the last half hour of this lurid morality tale—when the partners cross paths with a Jeffrey Dahmer type and one of his soon-to-be victims—the character study lurches from one contrivance to another as it bloodily beats its way to a ham-fisted conclusion, leaving a high body count. The narrative nadir involves a perp and a puppy. Spoiler alert: One of them gets shot.

Neither John Crowley’s direction nor the minimal but effective sets by Scott Pask can be faulted here. The show’s weekly overhead is probably one of the lowest on Broadway (minus the stars’ fees, which, face it, are insulting by Hollywood standards), but A Steady Rain looks gorgeous. So do the boys. But then, that’s why you’re here, right? It can’t be any other reason.

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Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. By Keith Huff. Dir. John Crowley. With Daniel Craig, Hugh Jackman. 1hr 30mins. No intermission. BUY TICKETS