Paul Thureen and Hannah Bos in Buddy Cop 2. Photo by Ian Savage.
BOTTOM LINE: Really funny, kinda weird, certainly quirky and comfortably old-school, Buddy Cop 2 is downright delightful.
"Nothing is what it seems" is the tag line for Buddy Cop 2. Not only is that true within the framework of the story, in which cops in a small town get a moment in the spotlight as their grieving community comes together, but it's also true of the production itself. The Debate Society produces experimental theatre and even though this show feels like a campy spoof of 1980s small town America, it's not really what it seems either.
Buddy Cop 2 is not only humorous, but it's also totally irreverent so you never know what's coming next. That approach to storytelling creates an entirely captivating production. The quirky realism that permeates the show is really just a mirage, a manipulation of the audience's comfort level so The Debate Society can play with dramatic strategies. And it works brilliantly. For example, sinister music creates an air of mystery so every time there's a knock at the door you get the feeling that shit's about to get real. It doesn't matter that you're duped every time because the tone has been methodically set.
Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen give pitch-perfect performances as Novak and Olson, two cops who find friendship through close-quarters and racquetball. They employ a humor that is comfortably familiar yet totally their own style. Michael Cyril Creighton, as the third cop McMurchie and Monique Vukovic as Brandi and Skylar are appropriately inventive in their respective roles. Complete conviction and a shared objective keep this ensemble in total sync with one another. The jokes land every time.
Buddy Cop 2 has one of the coolest sets I've seen in a while, particularly given the short festival run of this production for the COIL Festival (it also played a three week run last spring). Set designer Laura Jellinek has created a cluttered police station, a complete world that immediately places the characters in an understandable environment and offers opportunities for innovative staging by director Oliver Butler. Hell, the set includes an upstage racquetball court, which seems incredibly ambitious in any venue. Buddy Cop 2's production values are mighty high.
The Debate Society proves their worth yet again with this slightly bizarre comedy-mystery. You might not understand everything they're attempting, but its clear that their objectives are purposeful. It is experimental theatre, after all. Or maybe nothing is what it seems and that's the whole point.
(Buddy Cop 2 plays at Atlantic Stage 2, 330 West 16th Street, through January 13, 2011 as part of the COIL Festival. Remaining performances are January 10th 7PM, January 11th at 4PM, January 12th at 7PM and January 13th at 9:30PM. Tickets are $18 and are available at ticketcentral.com. For more info visit thedebatesociety.org.)