Aaron Lockman is an actor and playwright recently graduated from Columbia College Chicago. You can see him in The Living Room's upcoming DaDa Solo show, and you can hear his voice in the Audible productions of Locke and Key and The X-Files, as well as on the podcast The Audio Diary of Aaron Lockman
Peter DeFaria and Monica Orozco. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
By Aaron Lockman
SIX CORNERS takes place on Joe Schermoly’s delightfully dizzying set, with tilted tile ceilings lined with fluorescent lights that simultaneously create a feeling of openness and claustrophobia. We quickly meet our two central cop characters, Moroni and Perez (Peter DeFaria and Monica Orozco), who begin the play sitting in their office and shooting the breeze in a scene that, while it runs a bit too long, does an admirable job of toying with the audience. Playwright Keith Huff is clearly playing with our expectations of police officer portrayals in popular culture — whether in a hilarious buddy-cop movie or an indistinguishable Dick Wolf TV show. DeFaria and Orozco have palpable chemistry and great comedic chops, and director Gary Griffin does a great job at letting the tone swivel from hilarious to disturbing and back, while still bringing the characters’ quirks and dysfunctional relationships to the forefront.
Hints to the nature of the case are artfully dropped throughout the first scene, but the play really begins when Moroni and Perez begin questioning the two murder witnesses waiting in the lobby. Carter Hutch (Manny Buckley) and Amanda Bracket (Brenda Barrie) are both understandably disturbed, after they both heard a gunshot in a mostly empty ‘L’ station, saw a homeless man fall onto the tracks, and helped him back up only to have him die, on the platform, in their arms. Unlike most TV crime dramas, the public’s anxiety about the police — fueled by the endless string of news stories about the corruption, racism, and unpunished murder that has become commonplace in American police forces — is made quite clear in these two characters.
And while the play keeps everyone satisfactorily human…well, there are no strawmen in SIX CORNERS, but neither are there any heroes. Moroni and Perez are pursuing justice in a system that’s hardwired to avoid it, and to make matters worse they both have fundamentally different ideas of what that justice entails. It would have been natural to make the cop characters good guys in a sea of corruption, but the playwright avoids easy answers by humanizing that corruption and delving into the reasons cops make the decisions they do. And as the facts of the case get slowly and tantalizingly peeled away to reveal the uglier truth beneath, no character quite survives the climb to the moral high ground.
Huff’s witty dialogue and challenging moral premise, combined with a sharp sense of pacing from Griffin, some exceptional lighting choices from designer Alexander Ridgers (atmospheric reds and oranges alternate quite nicely with the harsh white fluorescents of the police station), and powerful yet understated performances from the cast make SIX CORNERS a thoroughly worthwhile outing.
SIX CORNERS plays through March 24 at Stage 773. More info at americanbluestheater.com.