An insider’s view of Chicago’s Finest
|Modofac Productions presents|
Review by Keith Glab
Playwright Jim Lynch has worked as an Illinois Assistant State’s Attorney for sixteen years. So it’s no surprise that CCX, his play about two Chicago cops which makes its world premiere with Modofac Productions, has a storyline, characters, and dialogue that ring true. Less intuitively, Lynch’s script also offers a balanced portrayal of the police, rather than painting them as infallible heroes.
Veteran cop Sam Rollins (Henri Watkins) and his younger partner Tommy Hennigan (Michael Hahalyak) are investigating a murder. They bring a fast-talking suspect named Lacroix (David Lawrence Hamilton) and a beautiful, flirtatious witness called Rita (Elizabeth Hope Williams) into the police station for questioning. We soon learn that Rita is giving a false ID in order to protect Lacroix, and that he may possess a piece of a do-rag that would incriminate Rollins of planting evidence in a prior case. Lacroix tries to use his leverage to both walk free and to extort money from Rollins. The story explores what compromises and sacrifices cops must make in order to protect and serve.
The cast excels at give-and-take. There’s a constant power struggle between the two cops as well as between the cops and the people they have brought in for questioning. Hamilton and Williams are given moments in which they, not the policemen, are in the driver’s seat, and these moments of turnabout rank among the show’s most interesting. This quartet of actors brings a great balance of passion and naturalism to their performances. The occasional piece of dialogue that could come across as cheesy or banal is saved by a committed delivery.
Patrick Thornton makes good use of Rivendell’s space – which stretches deeper than it does wide – to create a clinically white police station. The two interrogation rooms in which most of the action proceeds are located downstage, giving the audience an intimate view of every facial expression. These rooms lack the claustrophobic feel that might add tension to those scenes, however.
“CCX” stands for “Clear, Closed, Exceptional,” which is shorthand for police cases that get resolved through unconventional means. As well-written and well-performed as this play may be, there isn’t much about it that comes across as unconventional or exceptional. CCX falls shy of landing in the must-see theatre category because it doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself from the myriad of cop dramas found on television. But if you do attend, you’ll be impressed with what this ensemble has achieved, re-examine your opinion of Chicago’s Finest, and you certainly won’t regret the trip.
CCX continues through March 31st at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 5pm. Tickets are $15-$25, and are available by phone (312-504-5001) or online through BuyPlayTix.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at CCXplay.com. (Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission)
Michael Hahalyak (Tommy Hennigan), Henri Watkins (Sam Rollins), Elizabeth Hope Williams (Rita Cuneely), David Lawrence Hamilton (Lacroix Roquemore), Arch Harmon (Rollins Understudy), Eric Simon (Hennigan Understudy), David Guiden (Lacroix Understudy), Jessica Maynard (Rita Understudy)
behind the scenes
Patrick Thornton (director); Hank Perritt (producer); Rose Freeman (stage manager); Roger Wykes (set design); Brian Hoehne (lighting); Ryan Goldner (costumes); Adam Smith (sound design); Harrison Fillmore (script consultant); Derek Van Tassel (asst. stage manager); Jeremy Abrams (graphics consultant).