Dead Dog Park

DEAD DOG PARK

Dead Dog Park provides a glimpse inside the world of a policeman accused of wrongdoing. But unlike cop dramas, such as Blue Bloods, morality isn't neatly tied up here.

Barry Malawer's post 9/11, post-Financial Crisis, Black-Lives-Matters-inspired play, Dead Dog Park, is dominated by a single theme--a lack of faith...in anything.

Hopelessness permeates this 80-minute drama at the 59E59 Theaters in New York where black not only informs the racial issues at hand but the sense of our times, where the only smidgen of contentment is seen in an attorney looking to cash in on tragedy.

Did a white New York City patrolman push a truant black teenage youth out a 4th story abandoned building? The question drives this riveting tale.

But don't expect resolution.

We see the consequences of the fall without ever knowing where to apportion blame. As a result, everyone bleeds as doubt and distrust rips apart police partners, a marriage, a mother and son, faith in the justice system.

Even though Malawer started writing this play well before Eric Garner and Tamir Rise lost their lives, these killings resonate throughout the play.

But don't think this an indictment of authority. The playwright knows many on the force and has benefited from their insights in calibrating the story, which is far more complicated than a blame game.

The play provides a unique look at what officers experience when accused of brutality--a perspective we rarely hear about due to the Blue Wall of Silence and police unions that refuse to discuss tragedies.

Anyone who has ever been in a serious accident knows that even when one feels certain about the sequence of events, memory can play tricks, especially when involving hot pursuit and physical confrontation. The accused officer--and the audience--struggle from this lack of clarity.

The play also forces us to consider: does the past inform the present? Does juvenile delinquency portend more violent crime? Does overly aggressive policing portend unlawful killing?

When investing, we're always told past performance does not guarantee future returns. But do we believe this caveat in assessing human behavior?

Malawer's dialogue is precise and curt, though at times inevitably bordering on the cliché because of the thousands of hours of police dramas that have been aired over the decades.

The six-person cast delivers a first-rate performance, sustaining the story's compelling pace. Each character carries an unspoken troubled past. Eboni Flowers, who plays the victim's mother, especially pulls on this observer's senses with eloquently controlled anger she keeps on the edge of combustion.

The play has dramatically benefited by having pulled director Eric Tucker out of his familiar world of classic tales [his "Sense and Sensibility" is concurrently running downtown] into contemporary drama.

Tucker knows how to get the most of a story told with a small cast and within the confines of a black-box stage. He does this by creating visual crossfire between police partners, the accused cop and his wife, the victim's mom and her lawyer.

The actors go after each other, not simultaneously mind you, but rotating their battles with symphonic-like precision--a brief exchange between one pair of actors sequentially gives way to the next pair, then the next. This happens while they are all on stage, and this chaos works.

Tucker also employs his trademark reliance on actors playing multiple characters and physically placing actors where they are least expected.

The result: a story that would normally take much more time to be told in a traditional production unfolds at a break-neck pace, often effecting intense raw passion. And the result is a memorable play--a world bereft of love, trust, forgiveness, and hope.

There are no Sunday family dinners here.


Dead Dog Park opened last week at 59 East 59th Street and runs through March 6th.