Detective Story | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Detective Story

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Detective Story, Strawdog Theatre Company. The Strawdog space has been transformed into a gritty police precinct, and an ensemble of 29 depicts the din, corruption, and disillusionment of a single night shift. Yet this production of Sidney Kingsley's 1949 play seldom rises above the level of drab melodrama. In light of today's "ripped from the headlines" crime shows, it's about as exciting as a desk job to a seasoned undercover cop. This is largely the fault of Tom Hickey's protagonist, a fierce, arrogant, judgmental detective getting his comeuppance. We learn more about this violent, cynical man--who nevertheless idealizes his wife--from what others say about him than from Hickey's performance.

Despite some overlapping dialogue and groups of actors filling the stage, Shade Murray's production gives us little sense of the play's rush of activity: among the criminals are cat burglars, a shoplifter, and a backroom abortionist. Allison Greaves's costumes and Ray Vlcek's set capture the period perfectly, and the actors nicely deliver the zinging patter of police and criminals in the 40s. But their characterizations lack immediacy and excitement, and the result is as flimsy as a bad guy's alibi.

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