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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Cops

Also see Susan's reviews of The Brothers Size and Ella

Cops
Brian Razzino, John Bailey and Regan Wilson
According to American Century Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, its current production of Cops is a Washington area premiere. This 1976 play a gritty, real-time examination of Chicago cops faced with a morally compromising situation is an interesting work on its own, but perhaps more noteworthy for its influence on depictions of police officers in popular culture. Specifically, playwright Terry Curtis Fox and original cast member Dennis Franz went on to play important roles in Hill Street Blues, the 1980s television series that rewrote the rules for police drama.

Scenic designer Trena Weiss-Null brings the audience inside a shabby Chicago diner at 2 a.m. on a rainy night in 1978, with a vividly detailed set including scuff marks on the floor, seedy pink covers on the counter stools, and a working stove. George (Rob Heckert), the harried owner, and Mickey (Honora Talbot), the exhausted waitress, are serving a couple of regulars when cocky Jack Rolf (Regen Wilson) barrels in and parks himself on a stool, inadvertently sitting on a hat placed there by one of the regulars. The interplay between Rolf and the owner of the hat (Bill Gordon), followed by the arrival of the more reserved Bob Barberson (Brian Razzino) to break up the disagreement, suggest a farcical look at law enforcement, but it's just a way to blindside the audience before the rougher circumstances take over.

Rolf and Barberson are plainclothes police, soon joined in the diner by uniformed cop Gene Czerwicki (John C. Bailey). They communicate in a rough, profane shorthand that shows no special concern for people of different races, ethnic groups, sexes or sexual orientations. (Cops was written around the same time that David Mamet, also starting out in Chicago, began making poetry out of profanity.) Basically, it's late, the weather is miserable and they're bored.

The situation changes in a moment with the appearance of a stranger (Shane Wallis) who happens to be carrying a loaded gun. Suddenly the audience is right in the thick of a hostage situation, pinned down like the diner owner behind the counter and the officers attempting to barricade themselves behind tables.

Director Stephen Jarrett keeps the 75 minutes of action taut, tense and realistic, and the actors work as a notable ensemble. Wilson makes the most of his role as a show-off who becomes all business when the going gets tough, while Talbot brings quiet humanity as an innocent person caught in the middle.

American Century Theater
Cops
January 4th 26th
By Terry Curtis Fox
Omelet Eater: Bruce Follmer
Mickey: Honora Talbot
George: Rob Heckert
Cab Driver, Lt. Buchevski: Bill Gordon
Jack Rolf: Regen Wilson
Bob Barberson: Brian Razzino
Gene Czerwicki: John C. Bailey
Customer: Shane Wallis
Directed by Stephen Jarrett
Gunston Theatre II, 2700 S. Lang St.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: www.americancentury.org


Photo: Jeff Bell Photography


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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