ALBANY — Creative License, a theater collective formed last year, is performing its first play, a two-hander by Keith Huff starring a couple of the area’s most gifted actors, Aaron Holbritter and Ian LaChance. While the 90-minute script wears out its welcome long before the show is over, the production itself keeps our interest alive.
This 2007 play (winner of the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Work) has vivid language, an interesting story and credible humor, but I find the reliance on telling rather than showing to be a serious liability. Monologues to the audience dominate the script (rich monologues that might be useful in an acting class), and when that’s not happening, a character in the middle of a scene will suddenly break into commentary for a few lines and then return to the dialogue.
This technique is counterproductive, particularly when it comes to caring about the characters — and we are supposed to care a lot about these two Chicago policemen, friends since childhood, whose personal lives have taken different paths despite their ongoing professional connections.
Joey (LaChance) is single, perhaps lonely, and probably alcoholic. Denny (Holbritter) has a wife named Connie and two kids, of whom he’s fiercely protective.
‘A Steady Rain’
WHERE: Creative License at The Albany Barn, 56 Second St., Albany
WHEN: Through Nov. 15
HOW MUCH: $15
MORE INFO: www.albanybarn.org/product/steady-rain
One rainy summer, Denny tries to fix up Joey with Rhonda, a prostitute. That invitation to dinner at Denny’s house proves to be the undoing of all of their lives: After a series of run-ins with pimps and gangbangers and a near-fatal accident to one of Denny’s children, Denny’s and Joey’s fortunes are forever altered.
In fact, in his final monologue to the audience — a tiresome denouement — Joey even wonders aloud how, just three months before, these two were in each other’s shoes.
That moment is emblematic of many others, where the audience doesn’t have the opportunity to think for itself or feel. All of the emotions are telegraphed and explained. While the humor of the play doesn’t suffer too much from this approach, the drama is vitiated. Intellectually, I cared; emotionally, little.
But should you see the show? Absolutely, especially because the work of Holbritter and LaChance (as smartly directed by co-founder Casey Polomaine) is spot-on. These two are a study in contrasts: Holbritter’s Denny is a big-gesturing pacer, a boss, a hearty laugher, a quick-on-the-trigger sort of guy, finely complementing LaChance’s cautious, introspective, appreciative guy, who can stand still and keep his hands quiet. Their repartee comes quickly, and their moments of overlap clearly reveal them to be passionate friends.
Polomaine has the actors use the whole stage, including the apron and — in one startling moment — the far upstage area.
Isaac Newberry (tech direction), Nick Nealon (lighting design) and Henri Magiorum Bichon (sound design) have created an ominous atmosphere that aptly echoes the dark goings-on of the story. Acoustically, the space is not ideal. Sit in the first few rows for maximum comprehension.
The Capital Region is already rich in theater-going opportunities, but there’s always room for another company. Despite my reservations about the play itself, welcome, Creative License!