First produced in 2007, Keith Huff's "A Steady Rain," made it all the way to Broadway by 2009. That record-breaking sellout starred Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig.
Obviously, the play's current outing at the Odyssey doesn't have the same mega-wattage of the Broadway production. Still, even sans established stars, Huff's taut two-hander remains a stellar vehicle for two accomplished actors. Sal Viscuso and Thomas Vincent Kelly are undeniably that, despite a few marked line lapses on the opening weekend.
Viscuso plays Denny, a hard-edged cop whose casual racism has kept him from promotion. Kelly is Joey, Denny's police partner and best friend, a gentle alcoholic who has deferred to his more forceful friend since childhood.
Proudly married, with two young sons, Denny takes perverse pleasure in brandishing his domestic bliss before lonely bachelor Joey, a frequent visitor to his home. But when Denny cheats on his wife with a prostitute, he opens a Pandora's box of retribution that splinters his domestic microcosm and unleashes tragedy.
Huff's noir-tinged drama has a kitchen sink quality, with shifting story points that can be unnervingly busy. That failing is largely mitigated by the play's cryptic alternation between dialogue and monologue, along with frequent switches from present to past tense that lend an almost dream-like obliquity to the ongoing rush of plot.
John Zalewski's persistently dripping sound design is key to the ambience. Adam Flemming's set, beautifully lit by Michael Gend, features three upstage screens that flash images from impressionistic cityscapes to squalid tenement apartments – a milieu that also lends a subtly hallucinatory quality to this gripping albeit episodic morality tale. In keeping with that heightened tone, director Jeff Perry encourages his actors to play just this side of caricature in performances well-balanced between Viscuso's testosterone-fueled machismo and Kelly's deceptive softness – attributes that make the ultimate power-shift between them all the more compelling.
"A Steady Rain," Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends April 20. $25-$30. (310) 477-2055 x 2. www.OdysseyTheatre.com. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.