F or years, Keith Huff was your typical Chicago playwright, slogging along with script after script at storefront after storefront. Then, in 2007, he came up with A Steady Rain—the tale of two corrupt Chicago police detectives forced to confront their criminal incompetence—and all that changed. A Steady Rain went to Broadway in 2009, with a cast consisting of Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig; by 2010, Huff was writing for AMC's Mad Men.
But the new Hollywood Huff clearly hasn't lost his taste for Chicago cops—especially the dirty ones. His Six Corners offers us another pair of detectives with their own set of bad acts to confront.
And more such acts in the pipeline. At the top of this 90-minute one-act, getting its world premiere now with American Blues Theater, partners Nick Moroni (Peter DeFaria) and Bernadette Perez (Monica Orozco) are negotiating their first after-work assignation, even though Perez wisely points out that sex-with-a-coworker "bullshit does nothing but tear happy up and piss on it." Add to that Perez's evident contempt for the old-school Moroni ("Do you even have an I.Q.?!"), his less than Adonis-like looks, and the fact that they're both married, and you've got to wonder why they'd even entertain the notion of a tryst, if not for their shared commitment to poor judgment.
But they can't add adultery to their travesty scorecard until they've cleared the case of a man who was gunned down on an el platform earlier in the evening. Two witnesses (Brenda Barrie and Manny Buckley) are waiting to be interviewed. Before the shift ends, secrets will be revealed and more awful choices made.
Moroni is a fascinating character: the model of good-natured fecklessness, he can rationalize any failure and justify every transgression. Even his flirtations with virtue are corrupt. What's more, Huff has placed him and Perez at the nexus between the law they're supposed to uphold and the tribal loyalties reflected in traditions like the code of silence. Once the witnesses and their agendas become part of the mix, mordant ironies grow thick and fast.
Six Corners has the makings of a great urban fable, in short. But Huff can't seem to get out of its way. The play is overwritten in every possible sense: connections among the characters are made unnecessarily elaborate, apparently in order to touch on as many social issues as possible in the time allotted, and they're communicated in dialogue rather than dramatized, so that important details are easy to miss. Huff even over-Chicagos things, throwing around (occasionally inaccurate) geographical references as if to demonstrate his bona fides and indulging in sub-Mametian idioms like the one about people who can't find their asses with both hands and a flashlight. Even the show's polished director, Gary Griffin, can't tame the excess. v