Playwright Daniel Landon tries valiantly to capture the spirit of Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler, and other film noir classics with his new play Two Detectives, which opened Wednesday for a brief workshop run. The Manhattan Repertory Theatre is presenting the production in association with The Cameron Company, which is making its debut as an Off-Off Broadway theatre company.
The play has an intriguing premise. Set in Manhattan and Brooklyn in the summer of 1999, it centers around Bobby Sullivan (James Venable), a former beat cop, now private detective, who is handed a case involving the disappearance of 65-year-old Jacob Lasky (Timothy J. Cox). Lasky is a garment district employee, concentration camp survivor, and manic depressive who is looking to get out from the family business now run by his daughter Rachel.
Hired by Rachel (Olivia Roric), Bobby and his partner Gino (Basil Meola) dive into the case, searching for clues but getting nowhere fast. After coming up with nothing, they are paid a visit by the police (George Raboni and Joe Grimaldi) and the real Rachel Lasky (Shannon J. Walker, in a scene right out of Chinatown). Bobby and Gino dig deeper and discover that there's more to the case, including kidnapping, the Russian mob, lots of money, and murder.
Bobby also discovers that his own father Tommy (Kevin Kelleher), a former cop himself, may be connected to the case. Bobby and Tommy have a strained relationship as it is, but this case could tear them apart forever. Complicating matters even further for Bobby is his intimate relationship with Raisa, the first Rachel Lasky, but in reality a Russian con artist and femme fatale who's also involved up to her eyeballs in this whole mess.
Murder, betrayal, sex, money - this play has a lot going on. Landon's script is very smart and well versed in the lingo that Chandler, Spillane, and Hammett made so famous. The last half of the play could use a trim, but that's not my biggest criticism. The production clocked in at a ridiculous two hours and 40 minutes and frankly, I'm still wondering how that was possible. Film noir is supposed to be delivered with machine-gun precision. Look at the classics and you'll see rat-a-tat-tat delivery. While many scenes in Two Detectives popped with great energy and enthusiasm, an alarming percentage dragged on for no discernible reason other than I what suspect were attempts at dramatic effect.