Reviewed by Victor Gluck
Presented by The Drama League Directors Project at the Schaeberle Studio of Pace University, 41 Park Row, NYC, Aug. 17-27.
Michael Alltop's revival of John Guare's rarely seen 1969 Broadway failure, "Cop-Out," presented as part of The Drama League's "5 At the Fringe," proves this long one act to be extremely dated. The attitudes expressed by both its policeman hero and civilian suspects are now embarrassing and unpleasant in their political incorrectness. What remains today, 31 years after "Cop-Out" was written, is its juxtaposition, in the words of its playwright, of "super-real documentary" and "MGM dynamic."
Unfortunately, Alltop's production fails to deliver on this promise. As both the ordinary cop on the beat, and the glamorous private eye Bret Arrow, Tony Roach is extremely bland, missing most of his opportunities. Holly Golden is better as all the women—from the hippie rebel who confronts the policeman to all the colorful suspects whom Arrow investigates for the murder of Gardenia Gertie's cat Stockton. Her characterizations, however, tend toward the superficial, rather than parodying film thriller style.
What is missing from everyone involved in this revival is an understanding of the elements of film noir. Alltop has directed at too languid a pace to create the tension of a thriller. Set designer Karen Zeigon has used only the most basic props and pieces of scenery, whereas the play calls for lush movie settings.
Nor is there anything memorable about Sydney Maresca's costumes for the many characters. The clichéd use of a movie screen at the rear of the stage for silhouettes and shadow play palls rather quickly, owing to a lack of imagination and variety.
"Cop-Out" may still have something to say about the abuses of police power, but this production does not demonstrate it. The New York Times described it in 1969 as "full of laughs, with black but not savage humor." Those laughs have evaporated with the passage of time.