Credit: Michael Brosilow

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

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