A Steady Rain, which recently broke the weekly record for highest grossing play in Broadway history, is simply a Chippendales show for women (and men, I suppose) who like to like to watch two hunks show off their brains as well as their muscles. (For those New Yorkers whose internet has been out of service for the past month, A Steady Rain stars James Bond and Wolverine—Daniel Craig and High Jackman—as two ethically challenged Chicago beat cops.)
Keith Huff’s two-hander is a serviceable piece of theater. I hesitate to call it a play since it’s basically two monologues, intercut without much style or grace. (The production values are top notch at least: the moody lighting courtesy of Hugh Vanstone, the ghostlike sets by Scott Pask, not to mention John Crowley’s sure-handed direction.)
The plot is solid but feels more like the draft of a pilot for new Primetime cop show (CSI: Chicago, anyone?). Both men tell their side of the story concerning a wild evening that begins with a blind date and bullet hole in 52-inch plasma screen. The short, bloody ride to demotion, adultery and death unfolds effectively if rarely artfully.
Of the two performers, Daniel Craig impresses whereas Hugh Jackman simply appears to be having fun. Craig buries himself in a Chicago accent and adopts a bad moustache. I never believed he was an alcoholic cop, but he sure did a fine job of playing one. Jackman, on the other hand, makes very little effort. Dressed as if he’s at a script reading, he speaks in an accent that’s as unstable as his character. Jackman clearly enjoys playing a chauvinist racist pig—but it seems just like a fun costume he’s wearing to a party.
As serious theater or even Broadway entertainment, A Steady Rain is disappointing. Imagine a Conor McPherson play without the wit or the poetry—it’s Port Authority without the authority. However, the audience at the Plymouth Theater on Wednesday night seemed to be enthralled with being in the presence of these two white-hot stars. My only question: why not simply forget the accents and the plot and just let them tell talk-show anecdotes and maybe sing a few songs? (The audience loved it when the two stars broke character to hassle audience members whose cell phones interrupted the show, video below) I have the feeling no one would have minded if Craig and Jackman simply played themselves for the whole 85 minutes.