For my 12th show of this year, I stayed in my backyard to attend the College of Marin’s production of DETECTIVE STORY. I highly enjoy supporting COM’s drama department, and feel like a member of their extended community, where I know several faculty members and current students. This production was unusual in that a higher number of local actors (older) were in the cast than student actors. Not to mention the fact that it’s a HUGE cast of at least 30 people. The director, local legend Jim Dunn, is known for his attention to detail, and likely chose to keep it authentic with the individual portrayals.
On a personal level, I was amused to notice that the play is set on August 9, 1949, exactly one year before my maternal grandparents got married on that same date, and the day that my paternal grandfather turned 30. Part of the fun of attending productions at COM, and its neighbor, the Ross Valley Players, is the “local” nature of the audience members. It’s true that they are mostly on the elder side. This also means that conversations are easily overheard, while being highly articulate and specific.
This play took a socially realistic look at police politics in the New York City of its time. The suitably sprawling plot told several story lines at once. One of the things I most appreciated about the experience was the ability to look in on those different scenes at the same time. The set spread out over COM’s wide mainstage theatre, looking at three different rooms in the police station plus the main doorway into the station. Careful blocking choices ensured that at least one actor always had the center of the audience attention and was ably supported by other performers.
I’m not sure I could explain the whole plot here in this entry. It was apparent how the focus gradually narrowed down to the main character, Detective MacLeod, and the challenges in his life at the moment of the story. The stakes gradually rose, over three acts, to a not entirely surprising but nonetheless well played conclusion.
The story was evocatively told, with minimal music cues that were appropriately noirish when they were there, a light black and white style color palette of costumes, and subtle lighting cues moving around the different segments of the set.
COM truly shows the value of theatre relating to the larger community in their aesthetics. I am impressed by their consistent attention to quality, detail and artistic integrity. At one point, the school claimed that they have the highest transfer rate to Julliard in the nation. I’m not sure if they still do, but their care and excitement still shines in their work.