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A CurtainUp DC Review
The two cops — an old pro, Otto (Delaney Williams) and a rookie, Dom (Adi Stein) — are opposites in every way. Otto is rotund. He has a heart (and a heart condition) and he's willing to "look the other way" while the not-too-bright but very earnest Dom is young, skinny and determined to play by the rules of copdom and religion.
Delaney Williams, who resembles Fred Flintstone, will look familiar to anyone who watches tv cop shows especially The Wire. It is a pleasure to see him on stage because he has great comic timing, particularly when giving a slow burn. Williams and Houdyshell are terrific foils for one another. Adi Stein's Dom is suitably wimpy and Jenna Sokoloski's novice shoplifter gives a very physical performance as Alma's protegee. She has learned from Alma how to turn upside down whatever a cop says to her.
The four actors get plenty of laughs but playwright Morris Panych, well known in Canada but less so here, has given director Morris Panych not much to work with. The Shoplifters is a one-joke play with quite a few predictable turns that lasts one hour and forty minutes. Even tv sit coms, which it resembles, get the job done in less time.
Panych's premise is that in the microcosm of a grocery store, one that is part of a large corporate chain of grocery stores, there are haves and have-nots. The suits and the shareholders are doing well (let them eat steak) while many customers are much less fortunate. They cannot afford to buy the steaks the store sells leading Otto to ask "Who are the real thieves?"
Catch phrases such as "market economy" and "profit margins" are tossed about but Panych never takes his "morality play," into deeper territory. "We're talking but we're not saying anything," Alma says to Otto. Unfortunately she could be talking about the play that they are in. The audience whose affinity for sitcoms is probably much greater than mine had a good time.