By Eileen Morrison Darren
Beari Productions has taken the bold Sidney Kingsley slice-of-life police drama “Detective Story” to the stage in Middle Village.
The production is skillfully directed by group co-founder Debbie Bendana, who succeeds brilliantly in creating the bustling atmosphere and ambiance of a New York City detectives’ squad room.
Bendana’s efforts are aided in no small way by the absolute believability in the opening scene of actors Lawrence Hoffman, as Detective Nick Dakis, and Kevin Ryan, as Detective Tom Gallagher.
The story focuses on one fiery detective and his demons, but the fine ensemble cast creates a real sense of camaraderie among the detectives that draws the audience into a day in the life of this close-knit squad.
Detective James McLeod, played with zeal by John Ferry, is one of those loose cannons whose aggressive behavior is tolerated in police departments everywhere because he is so damned good at what he does — catching and convicting criminals. For him, everything is black and white. There are no mistakes, only offenses, and the price must be paid. Most importantly, there is no mercy.
This self-anointed arbiter of justice can’t even give a lovesick first offender a break, in spite of pleas from one of his fellow detectives. Rene Bendana acquits himself well as the gruff, but good-hearted Detective Lou Brody.
Reporter Joe Feinson, played by Richard Weyhausen, warns McLeod that he must not be so intolerant, that right and wrong aren’t as simple as they seem to him. “You’re digging your own grave,” the reporter tells him. He points out, to no avail, that McLeod is part of a greater process of democracy in which the press, the police, the people, and the courts are parts of the checks and balances that keep our society functioning.
As we join the action, McLeod is hot on the trail of an abortion doctor whose patients have died on the table. Just when his prey is within his grasp, however, he loses the witnesses he needs to make the case against the doctor. The victim dies, and a corroborating witness is bribed so he won’t be identified in a line up. The doctor’s unscrupulous lawyer, Endicott Sims, played slyly by Nick DeCesare, hints to Lt. Monaghan (Bob Acerno) that, unless McLeod backs off, some sordid information about McLeod’s wife will come to light.
Mary McLeod is questioned by Lt. Monaghan who convinces her to tell him about the damaging information. Mary, beautifully played by Mary Lynch, admits to a relationship with a racketeer with whom she was involved prior to meeting and marrying McLeod. She was also familiar with Dr. Kurt Schneider, the doctor who had ended the pregnancy that resulted from her relationship with the gangster.
Ultimately, Mary confesses everything. Although the events took place before they knew one another, the zealot in McLeod will not allow him to forgive the woman he loves more than life.
A man like McLeod is even more dangerous when he has nothing to lose. When a prisoner grabs a fellow detective’s gun the unwavering lawman does the only thing he knows how to do; he meets the threat with action, taking the gunman down, and is shot and killed in the line of duty.
“Detective Story” is a police drama with a juicy story line, a bigger-than-life, but flawed hero, and a host of rascals and roughnecks played with gusto by the supporting players, ingredients that make for an exciting evening of theatre.
“Detective Story” will be presented by Beari Productions at Trinity Lutheran Church in Middle Village Feb. 27-29. For tickets and information, call 718-736-1263.