Movie stars come and go on Broadway, most trying to revive careers or make a point. Some succeed (Jane Fonda), some don’t (Julia Roberts).
On Tuesday, Daniel Craig, best known for playing James Bond, and Hugh Jackman, aka Wolverine, make their official premiere in Keith Huff’s 90-minute two-hander called “A Steady Rain.” They are each at the height of their career, and need to prove nothing to no one. So you wonder, what is going on here?
On Friday night, the press got its first look at these two dipped-in-gold movie stars on stage. The Gerald Schoenfeld Theater was packed with media, as well as film director Joel Schumacher. The New York Times’s Ben Brantley was tenth row on the aisle. Outside on West 45th St., fans and autograph hounds were four deep against metal barriers. It doesn’t help that right next door, “God’s Carnage” has resumed performances with Marcia Gay Harden, Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, and James Gandolfini.
Jackman, of course, has plenty of stage experience, mostly with musicals. He starred in “The Boy from Oz.” He commanded the Oscars this past year. Craig is more of an unknown quantity. We know him mostly from action films, although he did play poet Ted Hughes in “Sylvia,” and the lead in “Enduring Love.” Both guys are known for stripping off their shirts, not down to emotions.
So I have good news for all involved: Craig and Jackman are just terrific as two Chicago cops recounting their lifelong friendship, partnership, and their tragic undoing. Craig, in particular, is a revelation as Joey, the bachelor who has pined for his friend’s wife and life all these years. A heavy mustache seems to pull Craig’s face down, releasing a look of sorrow and guilt that seems to radiate into his hunched shoulders and through his suit.
Jackman is family man Denny, whose secret life is peeled back like layers of onion skin. Jackman is just as riveting, starting Denny out as a solid, good-time guy and steering him into dangerous territory.
Much more about the specifics of “A Steady Rain” I don’t want to say because the twists and turns of Huff’s plot are just enough to make the audience gasp more than a a few times. You should know that the actors make all this work sitting on padded metal chairs under individual overhead lights, with little of a set and no props to fall back on. It’s all them, with nowhere to hide.
What’s certain is that “Rain” will become a movie, likely with these two men, expanded to include the many characters described by Denny and Joey during the hour and a half. Sidney Lumet should direct it. In the meantime, how nice to have two movie stars so invested in their roles that you almost forget who they are while the curtain is up and the theater is dark. Almost.