at the McCadden Place
"We have five hours until we have to let Stanley Brown go," says detective Caroline (Peggy Goss) in Castlereagh police station, Belfast, Ireland. Brown (Rick Crawford) is a suspected murderer and member of a paramilitary group, the UDA, who has terrorized ordinary citizens to the point where they deny his involvement in any reported thuggery. As the only female detective in the station, Caroline is up against more than their detainee. Her male co-workers present a secondary obstacle.
Gary Mitchell's absorbing political manifesto packs an impact that comes from message and from performance. Articulating the struggles of decades of fighting, he focuses on a small police force as a microcosm of social and political ideologies. Having no clear-cut solutions or outcomes gives even more power to their internal and external struggles.
Caroline's co-workers Bill (Barry Lynch), Mark (John Montana), and David (Kevin Kearns) are well-shaded and represent types whose viewpoints may differ, but they are distinctly part of the fraternity of men. All three actors deliver tough, believable performances. Montana is particularly good as the mediator who tries to be the voice of reason. Lynch is a supercilious but weak adversary, and Kearns is perfectly balanced as frustrated, angry, and dedicated. As the cocky and generally mute Brown, Crawford uses facial expressions that speak volumes in his confrontations with the police. Brandan Halpin as Rabbit, a young punk implicated in UDA crimes, also fleshes out a familiar cocksure persona. John Swanbeck's taut direction and focus on characterization channel these acting pros into a cohesive unit. Goss is suitably tough and vulnerable; her edgy zeal translates well as a counterpoint to her fellow officers' attitudes. Mitchell's examination of the Irish conflict resonates more clearly each day as the news reports crimes and mayhem in nearly every modern country. Those who govern and protect, in the final analysis, are simply human beings who have moral decisions to make, and Mitchell provokes and illuminates in fine fashion in this compelling play.
Presented by Closet Space Theater at the McCadden Place Theatre, 1157 N. McCadden Pl., Hollywood. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. (Dark Sun. Apr. 16.) Mar. 30-May 7. (818) 780-0661.
Reviewed by Melinda Schupmann