CHASING THE RADIO, Fillet of Solo Festival, Live Bait Theater. This evening of monologues by three cops from Police-Teen Link–Live Bait’s collaborative group bringing law-enforcement officers and teenagers together–attempts a blend of social experiment and grassroots art making. And at their best, these rough, heart-on-the-sleeve reminiscences represent a kind of humanizing outreach to civilian audiences, turning the uncivil lugs most of us dislike for writing us tickets into sympathetic people trying to do impossible jobs. Tim O’Brien tells of learning to feel fear when he finds a sawed-off shotgun in the hands of a ten-year-old. Tom McNamara recalls the absurdity of arguing with an elderly couple in an apartment reeking of cat piss to get them to give him a jacket belonging to a prostitute they’ve just kicked out. And Stacy Kraft, trained to “handle everyone’s problems,” can’t find a way to handle her own life-threatening diagnosis.
But the effort to humanize is compromised by the push to entertain. Though director Richard Cotovsky focuses the officers’ storytelling skills, he can’t turn them into natural performers, and too often they transform their lives into mini stand-up routines. There’s little genuine candor, which means it can be difficult to feel involved despite the stories’ drama and pathos.