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The toxic drip of "A Steady Rain"


Courtesy of A Public Fit

Christopher Brown as Denny, left, and Mark Gorman as Joey in A Public Fit's production of "A Steady Rain"

This Thursday through Sunday, February 20-23, will be theater-goers’ last chance to see A Public Fit’s production of Keith Huff’s A Steady Rain. Desert Companion senior writer Heidi Kyser and intern Eduardo Rossal checked it out on opening night, and had this to say about the tough-to-stomach buddy-cop drama.

Heidi Kyser: So, the first thing I wanted to ask you was, you said that this was the first play you have ever been to, correct?

Eduardo Rossal: Yes.

Heidi: I'm curious, beyond the specifics of the play, what was that experience like for you?

Eduardo: Well, it was my first grown-up play that I have been to; I've been to a few high school plays, middle school plays, and whatnot. Not too many. It was interesting. … At first, the construction worker's head of mine was saying, "This is going to be a fun experience," but I didn't really think that I would get anything from it, you know. … The first thing that got me to engage with the play was understanding how everyone put this together — The producer, the director, the writers, and the actors themselves, all came together to make this living thing. When I looked at it that way, it made me appreciate it little more than how I first came in.

Heidi: So, what did you think of the play itself?

Eduardo: I thought it was good. One thing that I got from it was that I need to work on my writing a lot more. The way that they spoke was fluid, and each word seemed to be carefully picked to construct a dark and grueling world. It was poetic. When Denny was saying terrible things, he was saying them articulately, and you could feel the weight of his words, even though they were terrible words. You could feel the sorrow in the words that Joey spoke, you know? The regretful life that he had lived.

Heidi: So, you felt the writing was emotionally powerful?

Eduardo: Yes. It made me realize that I was taking my writing for granted. I haven’t been working on it enough. I write a lot, but I don't try hard to write well. I'm an okay writer, but I know I could be better than what I am now. 

Heidi: That's interesting. So, the play resonated with you from a writer's standpoint.

Eduardo: Yes. However, it did hit me as a person as well. I thought the play was about toxic masculinity. That really resonated with me. I grew up with boys that would grow up to still be boys. That kind of nurturing creates irresponsible adults, selfish adult males like Denny. I’ve seen many men have a fear of not being a good provider, and that eats away at them. They seem not to be able to escape that mentality.

Heidi: It's interesting that you use the words "eats away at you," because one thing that stuck with me was Denny’s leg wound, and how he was unwilling to have it treated. Fairly early in the play, he gets stabbed in the leg, so throughout the course of the play, he is literally rotting — in addition to rotting from the inside out figuratively, emotionally, in his relationships. I thought that was powerful.

Eduardo: Yeah. Being raised here in the U.S., and being a guy, you tend to believe that you can survive anything. You got to be tough and whatnot. I know that there are men like Denny that won't see a doctor until it’s too late. 

Heidi: It seems that the play resonated with you as a male who’s been subjected to the same ideologies — macho ideologies. I was among the majority of the audience: middle-age, white people. One of the story’s big themes was racism. The two true victims of Denny's violence and toxicity were people of color: the Vietnamese boy and the kid who, I believe, is supposed to be Puerto Rican. I wonder how you felt about that element of it, being a person of color?

Eduardo: Racism takes many shapes and forms across the world. My family's homeland is Guatemala. Racism exists there, and the victims of it are the usual communities: the indigenous people of the land being occupied by the foreigners. So, in Guatemala, the lighter your skin is, the higher the status given to you. I was born with pretty white skin, and so I thought of myself as a white guy that could speak Spanish. It wasn't until later, when I hit puberty, and I started to tan, that I realized that I was a person of color, and I started to be treated differently. It's not that I’m comfortable with racism; I find it appalling. It's that you learn to tune out things that get to you so that you can move with your life. That's also how injustices persist. … As for me being one of few people of color, I just have gotten used to being one of few people of color in any setting. … So, the audience being mostly white didn't bother at a personal level at all.

Heidi: I think it was opening night, so it’s possible many of the attendees were donors or founders, who often get dibs on opening night. I could be off on that, though. In any case, I hope it's a more diverse audience on a regular basis. 

Eduardo: I believe that, statistically, people of color are less likely to get involved with theater. I do agree that there could be an economic factor at play. There’s a wealth gap in this country that disproportionately affects households of people of color. 

Heidi: It could also just be a tough sell, you know? I asked a few friends if they wanted to come with me, and they declined. One reason they gave was the subject matter was too heavy, intense, and depressing. Maybe it’s what our society is going through with the impeachment and political divisiveness. … Everything about it was good — the direction, the production, the acting. But if you need something to distract you from what's going on around the world, I’m not sure this is for you. On the other hand, it definitely resonates with current events. And it is based on a true story.

Eduardo: In the Q & A after the play, the moderator asked the audience if we thought their, Joey and Denny’s, being cops was important to the play’s relevance. I said yes, because I saw it, as I said, as being a tale of toxic masculinity. What’s more manly than being a cop? You’ve got a gun, a badge, authority, and power. … Look at who’s crying out that things are unfair: white young men. I think the reason is that they were promised the world as a child and never had to grow up. Then you add a manliness ideology, and you get a group of people that can't control their emotions. They direct their anxiety and fear at others who had no effect on their lives. The fear of not being man enough or a good provider that Denny has is the same fear that many young white males have. They’re told that their jobs are at risk of being shipped overseas, moving toward automation. … They’re looking for an outlet for their frustration, and racism becomes appealing.

Heidi: Another an interesting aspect of that was how Joey kept bringing up that Denny was his best friend, that they spend all their time together. It seemed like his way of excusing Denny's behavior or his own failure to call his friend out. Or maybe he was trying to convince himself that Denny was worth taking the fall for? Joey was so sympathetic, and Denny was so antipathetic that you can't help but think, why are these people even attracted to each other, other than habit? I felt it was saying something about their inability to make friends. Because if either one of them had outside support, the situation may not have been allowed to fester as long as it did.

Eduardo: I know in my personal life, I have allowed bad friends to stay around because I thought I wouldn’t be able to make more friends than them. That was a lie that I told myself, maybe a prideful thing? I know that I had self-worth issues, allowed myself to be taken advantage of a lot of times because I didn't know how to make other friends until I did. All I had to do was let myself be open to others, and they would come. I know that is a scary idea, being open, because it means you are vulnerable, and that’s a position no one wants to be in.

Heidi: The play takes place in a period of a month, right? Over that time, Joey, at least, exhibits a willingness to change, to grow. Maybe he had other friends, but the play made it seem like they were the only ones in their lives. … The fact that they just have each other, and they're both cops, makes their worldview very narrow. It’s a risk for any of us, I suppose.

Eduardo: That makes sense.

Heidi: Overall, I would recommend the play. I wouldn't say I loved it; it's terrible when the ending you can see coming finally does happen, but it’s a good production.

Eduardo: I would recommend it too. It was not an easy watch, but it is worth it if you could stomach it. 

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