Wm. Bullion directs Sid Feldman’s update of a 1970 Dario Fo comedy about a chameleon-like character who exposes police hypocrisy and corruption. By changing the setting from 1960s Italy to present-day Chicago and the victim from an anarchist to a Black motorist, Feldman and company are able to lob dozens of topical zingers, and the subject couldn’t be more relevant. But is it funny?
The answer will depend on how you like your laughs. The Conspirators traffic in a breathless commedia dell’arte style. Think greasepaint and nonstop shtick. Anthony Hinderman plays it appropriately broad as the shape-shifting actor making fools of a station full of bumbling cops. But the standouts are Nicole Frydman as the Chief of Police and Kate Booth as Detective Bertowski. Playing caricatures of retrograde male Chicago cops, both women accentuate the absurdity while lending a surprising and welcome vulnerability beneath the bluster.
The thing about the Keystone Kops/Looney Tunes approach is that it benefits from brevity. At more than two hours (including a momentum-killing intermission), this play would benefit from some trimming. The very serious and ongoing issue of police brutality is a worthy subject and there’s no doubt of this company’s sincerity, but after being pummeled by a staccato attack made up of human ugliness, I longed for a reprieve. v