In Pact Theatre Company, Organic Theater Company Greenhouse, Lab Theater.

Detective James McLeod rules his universe with an iron will, showing no mercy to those he considers criminal despite warnings from his colleagues that the world is more complex than he perceives it to be. So when the human frailty McLeod refuses to tolerate in others is brought home, he’s unprepared to deal with it.

Though it’s a bit heavy-handed by contemporary standards, Sidney Kingsley’s 1949 Detective Story still packs plenty of power and wisdom. But the key to playing this gritty drama is atmosphere, and this In Pact Theatre production doesn’t have that. Director Scott Tomhave poses his 22 actors, playing 26 roles, in neatly balanced arrangements, and the actors themselves recite their speeches with oral-interpretation skills ranging from adequate to excellent, but at no time do we believe that we’re watching anything but actors on a stage. (In contrast, the beehivelike squad room in Mary-Arrchie Theatre’s underrated 1990 production of the play could have been lifted in its entirety from the 18th-precinct station down the street.)

In Pact regular Michael McNeal’s self-righteous McLeod rants and bullies until we wonder how–and why–his coworkers react so docilely. His scenery chewing all but eclipses such finely drawn characterizations as Gerry Daly’s weary Detective Dakis and Mark Vallarta’s sentimental mafioso, both of whom have too little to do onstage. In Pact Theatre has in the past demonstrated its expertise at this type of close-focus performance, which makes this merely serviceable production all the more disappointing.