Be forewarned: Manbites Dog Theater’s regional premiere of Buddy Cop 2 is a moderately entertaining offbeat comic mystery that savagely satirizes television cop shows and the Cult of Instant Celebrity — as promulgated by CNN and Fox News, among others — which finds a photogenic child with a terminal illness and then provides increasingly maudlin wall-to-wall coverage of that child’s final days on this Earth. This play is set in America’s Heartland — in the small town of Shandon, IN — where the police force relieves its tedium by playing fiercely competitive games of racquetball and drowns its ennui in oceans of alcohol.
Penned with malicious glee by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen and originally developed and staged by Oliver Butler for The Debate Society of Brooklyn, NY, Buddy Cop 2 focuses first on police-station politics, which pit grizzled veteran Don McMurchie (Jay O’Berski) against newcomer Darlene Novak (Dana Marks), with fellow officer Terry Olsen (Lucius Robinson) playing both sides against each other, because he is largely sympathetic to McMurchie’s position but is dying to convince Novak to do the horizontal mambo. This in-house animosity comes to a head when Indiana’s grandstanding Governor schedules a whirlwind visit to Shandon, so that his insufferably perky 13-year-old daughter Brandi (Evgenia Madorsky) can sing on television during a high-profile fundraiser on behalf of a dying 12-year-old girl named Skylar (also played by Madorsky), whose plight has made her the cable news networks’ Flavor of the Week.
Not much else happens in Buddy Cop 2, and although Triangle-theater crowd favorites Jay O’Berski and Dana Marks and up-and-comers Lucius Robinson and Evgenia Madorsky put plenty of personality into their portrayals of these oddball characters, the play is only mildly amusing. These four fine farceurs always seem to be paddling furiously, but they never catch the comic wave.
The ultra-realistic set created by Buddy Cop 2’s original scenic designer Laura Jellinek — as adapted for Manbites Dog by Jellinek, Erik Benson, Kevin Ewert, David Berberian, and Jay O’Berski — may hinder Manbites Dog guest director Kevin Ewert and his gung-ho cast in their attempts to scale the heights of hilarity. The set consists a cluttered office area and a racquetball court, separated by a hallway; but incidents in the hallway and on the racquetball court are somewhat distanced from the monkey business taking place in the office. So, some immediacy — and who knows how many laughs — are lost.
SECOND OPINION: June 22nd Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 2 of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/manbites-dogs-buddy-cop-2/Content?oid=2567133; and June 15th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Cliff Bellamy: http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/14336160/article–Buddy-Cop-2–at-Manbites?instance=main_article (Note: You must register first to read this article). (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the June 16th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2011/06/buddy-cop-2-is-a-delightful-dark-comedy/.)
Manbites Dog Theater presents BUDDY COP 2 at 8:15 p.m. June 23-25 at 703 Foster St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.
TICKETS: $12 weeknights and $17 Friday-Saturday, except $5 Student Rush Tickets and $2 discount for seniors 62+ and active-duty military personnel.
BOX OFFICE: 919/682-3343 or https://www.etix.com/.
The Play: http://thedebatesociety.org/buddy-cop-2/ (The Debate Society) and http://www.samuelfrench.com/store/product_info.php/products_id/9051 (Samuel French, Inc.).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.