Monday, December 7, 2009

A Steady Rain - Dec 6, 2009 Broadway Performance - by Mark Oswald

I remember hearing something about this production mentioned at the tail end of a news bit focusing on some Hugh Jackman or Daniel Craig film project. I thought, “Whoa, Wolverine and James Bond on Broadway in a gritty police drama? I gotta check this out!” But then I didn’t and I didn’t hear any more news on it for a while either. Then there was that whole “cell-phone endlessly going off during the production” story, with accompanying video which I, of course, took the time to watch. After this, the show was constantly in my mind. I loved the fact that the show is just these two hyper-manly actors doing their thing on stage together, no other cast included, with minimal props/backdrops. “Great idea,” I thought, “must be one hell of a show!”

So suffice to say that this is a performance I really wanted to catch. My girlfriend, not surprisingly, was also highly interested. So we looked around for tickets but all were either sold out or far too pricey for our check books to handle. Then all of a sudden her friend tells her how she saw the play and it was great and they’re actually having one additional performance and that the tickets for the back couple rows were much cheaper. So my lady and I agreed that we should snatch up a couple of these bad boys immediately. Good thing we did too, because this is one show that truly did not disappoint.

The show follows these two Chicago cops, explaining the story of events that occurred in the recent past. It’s never made clear if they’re supposed to be explaining this to someone else in particular, or just the audience. It didn’t matter, really. This show was not about bloated story-telling or lavish production values. It was two actors, two chairs, two hanging metal ceiling lights, and an occasional backdrop that would appear out the darkness behind them. These were not cheesy set pieces either; they were highly detailed, three dimensional beauties and held a quality that can only be described as eerie, setting a great noir tone for the proceedings.

All the way through, I would occasionally stop to wonder how long this had actually been going on for. “Probably much longer than it feels like,” I thought. I refused to take time away to check my watch though, fearing that I would miss something integral to the story. That’s just the type of show it was; a real testament to the talents of both Craig and Jackman. There is barely a moment to breathe between the two actors machine-gunning out line after line for 90 minutes in an attempt to explain what brought them to their current states. In fact, when there is a pause, you really feel it. It’s not unlike being on a speeding train, flying down the tracks until it screeches to a sudden halt. Then before you know it, you’re back on your way to the inevitable conclusion; a conclusion that could not come in any other form than the one that’s been chosen, if you ask me.

Now who did I like better? Who blew me away with more charismatic intensity? Well that’s tough to say. Both actors were excellent, clearly reveling in every moment on stage, playing off each other just as if, like their characters, they’ve known each other since kindergarten. I will say that Daniel Craig was the one who surprised me the most, however. I already knew Jackman as sort of a “Jack” of all trades (sorry); with him doing Broadway theatre, musicals, action films, romantic comedies, and even hosting the Oscars, doing the best job I think anyone’s done in years. Craig, however, had the advantage of getting to play completely against type. No suave secret agents or brutish badasses here. He plays the meeker of these two partners and friends. He really got to go all out too. Both he and Jackman sport heavy Chicago accents, but Craig seems to take his all the way to the bank, transforming into a completely different person. The mustache didn’t hurt either.

I felt extremely fortunate to catch this last showing of the production. It was a unique experience to see these big time movie stars in an intimate and entertaining performance right in front of my eyes. After the show, they came back out on stage. Craig brought out glasses of wine for the both of them. Then they proceeded, in their native accents (quite a shock after listening to them in the other voices for the whole show), to auction off pieces of their clothing, signed posters, signed teddy bears modeled after their characters, and pictures to be taken with them backstage. These all brought in some pretty big numbers, I must say, but all of the proceeds from this final show were going to two charities: New Yorkers for Children, which helps kids in foster care, and NYCPBA Widows & Children’s Fund, which provides aid and assistance to widows, widowers, and dependents of police officers who’ve lost their lives in the line of duty. The actors kept the auctioning lively and fun, doing Auctioneer impressions and joking around with each other and the audience. All in all, it was a great time that I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to witness. Well done, fellas, and keep up the good work!

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