Chicago Theater Review: BUDDY COP 2 (Pavement Group at Theater Wit)

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by Lawrence Bommer on December 1, 2014

in Theater-Chicago

IF THERE’S A BUDDY COP 3, THEN THERE IS NO GOD

Strange doings happen for arbitrary reasons in the police station in Shandon, Indiana, the setting for an inconsequential one-act called Buddy Cop 2. Penned by the Brooklyn-based playwriting team of Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen (who call themselves the Debate Society), this Midwest premiere from Pavement Group is set in steamy August, 1982. This is when the tiny burg chooses to celebrate Christmas in advance, again for arbitrary reasons. A former recreation center, the police headquarters was destroyed by a flood two years before—an incident about which we’re supposed to care.

Joe Zarrow, Gabriel James Franken, and Cyd's Not on FB in Pavement Theater Group's BUDDY COP 2 - photo by Michael Courier.

Small-town small-talk fills this 85-minute piece of ordinariness. The cops in this appropriately generic play (the tiny joke is that there’s no Buddy Cop 1) are veteran deputy chief Don McMurchie (Joe Zarrow), who sings with a glee club called the Muscle Tones and is in charge while the chief vacations in Canada; Darlene Novak (Cyd Blakewell), a chirpy, newly divorced rookie who fields the phone calls; and Terry Olsen (Gabriel Franken), a likable lout with a thing for Darlene and a passion for playing Bingo on the radio, collecting beer cans from past offenders, and playing Alpha-male racquetball behind the office with Darlene.

Joe Zarrow and Cyd's Not on FB in Pavement Theater Group's BUDDY COP 2 - photo by Michael Courier.

The one thing that breaks the stultifying routine of this humdrum hamlet is the plight of a teenage cancer survivor named Skylar (Leah Raidt). Her plucky spirit has inspired benefits from the locals and a skating fundraiser featuring the Governor’s spunky daughter Brandi (a rollerskating Raidt). The cops get to provide security for this celebrity and that just about makes their day. In contrasting monologues, Brandi testifies to her happy life of service, while Skylar confesses to terrifying dreams about a murderous Santa Claus (which may represent the cancer or her abusive mother).

Leah Raidt in Pavement Theater Group's BUDDY COP 2. Photo by Michael Courier.

Skylar’s very uncertain situation injects a mystique of mystery into the excruciatingly commonplace doings in this improvised police station, lavishly decorated in Christmas detritus by set designer Megan Truscott, with a huge “gift” curtain raised at the opening.

Gabriel James Franken in Pavement Theater Group's BUDDY COP 2. Photo by Michael Courier.

Her unexplained suffering—which some on opening night found hilarious—adds an elaborate and distracting realism to a play that’s “slightly sinister” (as the press release puts it) but mostly baffling.

Gabriel James Franklin and Cyd's Not on FB in Pavement Theater Group's BUDDY COP 2 - photo by Michael Courier.

Despite the hard work by director Cassy Sanders and her four ready-to-roll actors, this slice of whatever is just too tedious to be funny and too forced to be scary. A narrated epilogue takes us into the future (or up to the present), but by then it doesn’t matter since we never cared about the past. Whether in the past, present or future, you don’t have to be there.

Leah Raidt in Pavement Theater Group's BUDDY COP 2 - photo by Michael Courier.

photos by Michael Courier

Gabriel James Franken in Pavement Theater Group's BUDDY COP 2 - photo by Michael Courier.

Buddy Cop 2
Pavement Group
Theater Wit, 1229 W Belmont Avenue
Thurs – Sat at 7:30; Sun at 3
scheduled to end on December 21, 2014
for tickets, call 773.975.8150 or visit www.TheaterWit.org
for more info, visit www.PavementGroup.org

for more info on Chicago Theater, visit www.TheatreinChicago.com

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