Theater review: Superb 'Detective Story' explores justice

The Lamb’s Players theater in Coronado presents a powerfully dramatic and entertaining production in “”Detective Story,”” playing now through March 16. Superbly acted and creatively designed, this production of celebrated New York playwright Sidney Kingsley’s greatest work combines the hard-edge pessimism of cops dealing with the daily dredge of American society with the hope of a new future worth fighting for.

Directed by Robert Smyth, the ensemble play of 28 cast members looks at the life and conflicts of four sets of criminals, each guilty of crimes of various severity, and a host of NYPD detectives going about their daily routine. Kingsley’s work, credited as being the granddaddy of all forms of visual police drama, from “”Dragnet”” to “”NYPD Blue,”” is a bittersweet look into the minds and motivations of cops, criminals and the true meaning of American justice.

The play begins at 5:30 p.m., only a few hours before quitting time for the detectives. Protagonist detective David McLeod (David Cochran Heath), the worn-out, tired cop says, “”Thieves and murderers could have written the penal codes themselves,”” while he is begrudgingly forced to set a murderer free on a technicality. McLeod is convinced that there should be one set of laws for mankind: Those that do wrong should be punished, and punished severely. As the play moves forward, a barrage of crooks as different in personality as the crimes they commit begins to infest the precinct and dismantle McLeod’s ethics and patience.

The arrest of Arthur Kindred (Nick Cordileone) sparks McLeod’s interest. Kindred seems to be a generally upstanding young man, but because of pressures beyond his control, he has stolen money from his ever-faithful employer (George Flint). Kindred’s situation is not as cut-and-dry as those of the other criminals presented in the play, since in addition to being a criminal, he is also a Navy hero and an overall decent citizen. The first moral line has been drawn: Must the law always stay firm on black-and-white dogma, or can an honest cop turn the other way to save a potentially good man? The answer may surprise you.

A bit later, the real scum of the New York underworld begins to surface. Two burglars, caught in the act of stealing several thousands of dollars from an upper-class home, are pulled into the station house. Lewis (Jon Lorenz) and Charlie (equity actor J. Michael Ross) deny the theft and are obviously lying, pushing the entire precinct to its moral heels. With this duo, we see how the law can be twisted.

By exploring both the mindset and physical actions of those caught in world of the New York police precinct, Kingsley investigates the nature of American justice and presents a view for all complications associated with such. How far can a cop or any good man go to see his vision of justice enacted? How far should he be able to? When does goodness control the law and when does the law do nothing but give criminals a chance to evade reprimand? All is revealed in the story of one detective.

Detective Story

Playing Feb. 7 – March 16

Tues. – Thu. 7:30 pm; Fri. 8 pm; Sun. 2:30 pm

Tickets $20 – $40

Lamb’s Players Theatre

1142 Orange Ave., Coronado