Keith Huff's crackerjack two-hander "A Steady Rain" turns out to be less like the perpetual drizzle of its title and more like a snowball that builds to an avalanche.

Keith Huff’s crackerjack two-hander “A Steady Rain” turns out to be less like the perpetual drizzle of its title and more like a snowball that builds to an avalanche. While Huff starts with a couple of familiar characters — good-cop, bad-cop Chicago patrolmen with alcohol and racism issues — he deepens them into complex figures, compellingly human even when at their most despicable. The adroit character development combines with a billowing narrative to deliver some rattling emotional crescendos.

Huff’s story unfolds as two separate monologues that provide competing perspectives on a series of past events, but also occasionally merge into present-moment dialogue scenes.

Denny (Randy Steinmeyer) begins as the dominant figure, a cop who takes bribes and complains he keeps getting passed over for detective, which he believes is because he’s white.

He’s a classic cop gone bad, but Huff invests him both with a dynamic enough personality (helped by Steinmeyer’s charismatic delivery), and with a generous side, which is shown in his commitment to keep his longtime partner Joey (Peter DeFaria) away from alcohol by inviting him for dinner almost every night.

Joey isn’t so innocent either, but it’s clear that without Denny he’d be a different kind of cop. He views the world through less tainted lenses, and, when it comes to Denny’s family in particular, through rose-colored ones.

Huff possesses a persuasively deep understanding of what makes a Joey stick with a Denny and possibly follow him over a cliff. It’s a relationship with myriad angles to it, and director Russ Tutterow and his cast deserve significant credit for capturing the full range.

There’s respect that’s really envy, loyalty that morphs into competitiveness, even a traditional male bonding that develops a tinge of loathing. It’s all pretty twisted psychologically, and therefore wholly believable.

The story itself has a terrific build as Joey and Denny deal extensively with personal issues, which causes them to make a major mistake in the field and puts them on a collision course with each other. While he could maybe pull back on a contrivance or two, the playwright smartly sticks to his conceit of piling one worse complication on top of another, effectively investing “A Steady Rain” with genuine dramatic power and a sense of true tragedy.

Combo of genuinely rich characters and spiraling yarn make this a strong candidate for future production in the small-scale commercial sphere.

A Steady Rain

Chicago Dramatists, Chicago; 77 seats; $28 top

Production

A Chicago Dramatists presentation of a play in one act by Keith Huff. Directed by Russ Tutterow.

Creative

Set, Tom Burch; costumes, Kerith Wolf; lighting, Jeff Pines; sound, Michael Tutaj; stage manager, Tom Hagglund. Opened Sept. 28, 2007. Reviewed Oct. 7. Runs through Oct. 28. Running time: 1 HOUR, 35 MIN.

Cast

Joey - Peter DeFaria Denny - Randy Steinmeyer
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