Crime in the City, Cave 76, at Zebra Crossing Theatre. Ben Hecht notwithstanding, newspapermen who can write both good copy and great plays are rare. The very qualities that make a good reporter--detachment, a preference for fact over fiction--actually interfere with good theater. Reader critic and feature writer Adam Langer clearly aspires to Hechtian heights, but the three well-written, well-directed, and well-acted plays in this evening of one-acts are still missing the divine spark that makes for great theater.
It's not for want of trying. Langer is a master craftsman. In Genuine Rookie he reveals in glorious detail a con game in action; in Before the Clearing he shows us a pair of crazed crooks on the lam; and in The Chain he walks us through a Chicago-style Kafkaesque nightmare in which sleazy cops enslave hapless drug dealers. A fine reporter, Langer takes pains to describe every trick that goes into the con, every thought that drives his thieves, every move and countermove of his suckers and pigs. In fact, half the pleasure of Genuine Rookie and The Chain comes from thinking back over them, trying to figure out exactly when the poor fools got taken.
But Langer's careful, detailed work slows the pace of his stories--even the shortest one-act, Before the Clearing, feels long. And after a while it's hard not to wish he'd created some real characters for this trio of well-structured if sometimes contrived tales.