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Daniel Craig, Hugh Jackman in 'A Steady Rain': What did the critics think?

September 30, 2009 | 10:33 am

Rain

When the stars align on Broadway, the potential for box-office gold is great. But the potential for critical disaster can be greater, as many screen-to-stage actors can attest.

Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman both have impressive theater credentials to their name, so their decision to take a break from the big screen to star in Keith Huff's "A Steady Rain" in New York is not a complete cognitive disconnect. Still, it's rare to see two A-list Hollywood actors on stage together -- and in a dark and moody drama, no less.

Set in Chicago, the play tells the story of two cops whose professional and personal relationship grows increasingly fraught following an escalating series of criminal incidents.The actors recount their tales in dual monologue fashion, directly addressing the audience in sometimes humorous, sometimes disturbing soliloquies.

Directed by John Crowley, the two-actor production at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre is drawing mob-sized audiences. Is rational critical discourse possible amid the deafening publicity fireworks? Keep reading to find out.

Ben Brantley of the New York Times writes that "A Steady Rain" is  "probably best regarded as a small, wobbly pedestal on which two gods of the screen may stand in order to be worshiped." He faults the play for using a formulaic set-up of two lifelong friends who find themselves on the opposite sides of the law. But he praises the performances, singling out Craig's ability to create "a more complete portrait as Joey, who emerges as a constant worrier, born with a sense of guilt and a fear of offending."

Curtain call

The Los Angeles Times' Charles McNulty praises the two stars, writing that they "earn their adulation, magnifying what’s most gripping about Huff’s writing even when the drama, stretched thin with bang-bang incident, becomes considerably less believable over time." He adds that "in an intimate theater, 'A Steady Rain' probably seems larger than it is. But in a Broadway house, the play’s smallness is unmistakable — a vehicle for stars to shine in and not much more."

Variety's David Rooney calls the production "riveting theater" and wrote that the playwright "recharges those familiar elements by approaching events usually outlined in action terms with the probing eye of a forensics investigator and psych profiler combined."

Linda Winer of Newsday of Newsday writes that the "star casting is justified by quality theater." She calls the production "a taut exercise in Middle American pulp fiction, a gorgeously acted set of monologues about moral ambiguity and a couple of disappointed beat cops in a violent downward spiral of shakedowns, bigotry and enormous self-delusion."

Peter Marks of the Washington Post describes the production as "an opportunity squandered" for its leading men, writing that "the stars' surface ruggedness is the evening's only magnetic facet." He faults the play for feeling like "a compressed version of the narratives of a dozen TV shows, from 'Homicide: Life on the Street' to 'The Wire.'"

-- David Ng

Top photo: Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig in "A Steady Rain." Credit: Joan Marcus. Bottom photo: Craig and Jackman take a bow. Credit: Evan Agostini / Associated Press

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