Detective Story | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Detective Story

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Detective Story, New Millennium Theatre Company, at the Greenview Arts Center. Director Chad Wise is enamored of film noir, if his program note is any indication. And he and his designers have rendered this production of Sidney Kingsley's 1949 American classic in stark monochrome, simulating the harshly lit chiaroscuro of pre-Technicolor cinema. The actors are made up in chalky geisha-mask whiteface, and the costumes have been selected to enhance the decor rather than delineate historical period, social status, or personality--making inadvertently humorous such lines as "You're getting pale" and "Why must you always make everything so black and white?"

The stylistic imposition would be less distracting if the New Millennium company had given equal attention to the text--to this day the prototype for precinct-room dramas, with its rich variety of characters and complex postwar domestic issues. Under Wise's instruction, however, the cast's playing is as broad and one-dimensional as the bare comic-strip set. (An exception is James Chlopek, whose Detective Brody hints at a life beyond what the playwright has given him.) Depriving the audience of discovery, suspense, and empathy, this interpretation offers by way of compensation only a conceptual gimmick, and that's not enough to sustain two full hours.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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