Plainclothes takes a look behind the security cameras at a department store | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Plainclothes takes a look behind the security cameras at a department store

It doesn't quite ring true, but it's still a successful work comedy.


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The loss prevention office at Brady's, a Michigan Avenue department store that looks and sounds a lot like Macy's, has been catching and prosecuting a lot of BMYs (black male youths) lately, and the corporate headquarters is starting to catch wind of an what looks like a definite pattern. The staff, comprised mostly of people of color, is incredulous, but after a confrontation with a shoplifter becomes violent, the group of coworkers must examine their own practices, which inevitably leads to larger questions about the corporate and socioeconomic hierarchy of who gets to watch whom.

In this devised work, playwright Spenser Davis draws on his own experiences working as a security office at a similar store, both undercover and behind the security camera, and as the director of the Chicago run of At the Table, which was created by playwright Michael Perlman in collaboration with the actors. Here, with Davis co-directing his own work with Kanomé Jones, there's a lot that resonates. A large ensemble of familiar Broken Nose Theatre faces, plus some new ones, create a convincing begrudging retail work-family, up to and including a young kleptomaniac whose reputation for mopping is so well-known up and down Michigan Avenue that he has a codename: "bootyshorts."

But there's no getting around the fact that the central incident and subsequent corporate drama that all of the timely questions about racial profiling and quotas and law enforcement's handling of petty offenses hinges on just doesn't ring true. Even though it doesn't quite reach the level of profundity it strives toward, Plainclothes functions as a smart, observant hangout work comedy.   v

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