Theater Review - "Scandal" star helms Alliance"s "Steady Rain"

Steppenwolf co-founder Jeff Perry brings the Broadway hit to the South

You're most likely familiar with actor Jeff Perry from his current gig as Cyrus Beene on ABC's "Scandal," and some of us will always have a soft spot for his role as the father-figure teacher Mr. Katimski on "My So-Called Life," but he also has an impressive history of work in the theater. Along with Gary Sinise and Terry Kinney, he is a co-founder of Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and he has served the company in various capacities since 1974.

This is Perry's third experience with A Steady Rain having previously helmed it at L.A.'s Odyssey Theatre and Minneapolis's Guthrie, with the same cast of two actors, Thomas Vincent Kelly and Sal Viscuso. The play is basically a duologue in which the two actors recount events that have resulted in their current situation, so audience members can expect an intense 90-minute ride that requires them to be actively engaged, using their imaginations. Perry's excited to bring the cop drama to the Alliance Theatre, even if that means armoring up to return to the dark territory of the story. "To me, the story is so much about the lifelong love, friendship, and loyalty of these two guys," he says. "It's such an empathetic situation the playwright puts them in. Like all of us, they are flawed, and they are torn by circumstances that are larger than they are, as we have all felt."

Perry likens the play to an audio book. "You're creating pictures in your brain the same way as when you're reading or listening to a book, you're in that role of creating your versions of the characters and the setting that are talked about during the show," he says.

Whereas this goes against the typical playwright mantra of "Show, Don't Tell," Perry says this play works for him because as the characters retell recent events, they also end up vividly re-living them for the audience. So, sure, if you're in the mood for a flashy production with a lot of fanfare, this is not the one you likely want to choose. However, there's a reason film stars Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman signed up to take on the Broadway version in 2009 — it's a powerhouse workout for the actors and an opportunity for audiences to really dig in to the story and take a more intimate journey.

Given Perry's busy schedule, he wouldn't keep returning to this material if he didn't feel as though it still has something to say. Ultimately, he believes that the playwright uses the familiar trope of the cop buddy drama. If you're a fan of performance-driven dramas like "True Detective," (we're talking season one) you should take the chance to experience the delicious tension of this live experience at the Alliance's more intimate Hertz Stage.

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