This year at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, I’m part of a group that are taking in a series of plays and then getting together later to have discussions about them over coffee and dessert. This is a great way to add value to the Fringe and to meet new people and hopefully find myself and my thinking challenged.
However, as good as the thought-provoking plays are, the Fringe is still primarily about entertaining people. Sometimes, the best thing about the Fringe is that it gives you an escape from the drudgery of a hot summer day, and given the weather in Winnipeg the last little while, an hour or so in an air conditioned theatre is about as good as it gets.
One thing that does make it better, is when the play you are watching is well done. On this front N.C.S.I.S.N.Y.P.D.(aka The Procedural) does a really good job. The play is a gentle satire on the dozens of police shows that center on the crime lab and forensic evidence in solving the crimes.
One thing that makes me nervous when approaching a show like this is whether or not it will be a recognizable version of the kind of show it is trying to send up. Not here. The writers clearly realize that there is something faintly ridiculous in all of these show and just heighten those elements to add a good measure of laughter into the show. Quite simply, the plot line of this show could have been pulled from any one of the shows that air on TV week in week out.
The play opens with two detectives surveying a weapon that is sitting on a table The veteran detective Harry Sullivan (Alan MacKenzie) is the stock, get the bad guy any way you can officer, while the younger detective Bruce Shepherd (Gio Navarro) is the brilliant, yet socially inept officer with the out of the box ideas that will eventually solve the crime.
The scene then switches to the police station where the Captain (George McRobb) is being set upon by a self-involved, crusading journalist (Dorothy Carroll) who won fame for herself by solving a crime at the expense of the Captain and Sullivan.
From there the show proceeds through all the typical elements of your “crime of the week” cop show. In the end the perpetrator is caught, the crime is solved, the plot holes are ignored(just like on many of the TV counterparts), and the socially awkward cop falls for the brilliant pathologist(Robyn Pooley), whose handiwork and devotion to Shepherd help crack the case.
The acting in the play was quite strong throughout. As the connecting thread in the story, Carroll, as the obnoxious journalist brings a great deal of energy and the requisite “look at me” persona to the role. The other characters do a fine job of staying in character throughout. The lone drawback to the cast is that while McRobb carries off the harried part of, harried authority figure, in the role of the Captain, he doesn’t do quite as well in the authority figure area of the role.
It’s clear while watching this play that Navarro, who also wrote the play, enjoys the shows that he is sending up. One of the ways that he does that is by sprinkling references to the actual shows throughout the play, highlighted by a running Law and Order gag. While that and some of the other gags are readily noticeable, there may be one or two others that are not, but add an extra element to the play as you watch for them.
On the whole the play doesn’t produce a lot of belly laughs, but it is consistently funny throughout, more so if you are, like me, a regular viewer of such TV shows. If you are looking for familiarity, relaxation and laughs, I recommend you take in N.C.S.I.S.N.Y.P.D.(aka The Procedural). It’s a great way to take your mind off the stresses of life and the heat of the day.
I rate this 4/5