Last night, in a dilapidated two-room storefront at 94 Norman Ave, local company lilac co and st john’s theatre ended its run of Cop Piece, a work-in-progress written by company co-founder and Greenpoint resident Sean Edward Lewis. Thursday night’s show included a slide presentation and a poetry reading before the play.
Narrating his slideshow in a meandering style that alternated between collapse and recovery, Chris Domenick spoke about ants, bees, living in New York, a pigeon named Baudelaire, the Macaulay Culkin film “My Girl,” and the codependency of his aunt and grandmother. He punctuated his talk with plenty of pauses, and with so many “and, ums” that the simple utterance became resonant, like a performance art om. The fixity of the slides, which ranged from images of yellow cabs to a shot of an ostrich egg that Domenick and a traveling partner threw off the Cape of Good Hope, both belied and complemented the loose associativeness of his discourse.
Domenick wore shorts and a cobalt/purple jacket as he spoke, and it was as if his talk was a circuitous hike through rainforests of memory—the way (some of us) think now.
Next, poet Edgar Oliver read two pieces from an illustrated notebook that resembled a sheaf of spells. The first poem meditated, and even salivated, about his impending murder, with Oliver wondering aloud which of two boys would hold the knife—he seemed eager to find out. Walking alone on a gray road in a gray forest, the narrator seemed painfully lonely, but the setting also glimmered with a silvery excitement. Trading the fanciful for the quotidian, the next piece found Oliver nervously avoiding daytime traffic on Third Ave on his way to buy bacon and egg sandwiches. He delighted in the minor success of returning to his apartment with the provisions, which he placed on a blue plate and shared with his cats. Outside his abode, the bright day sat in the pan of the city “like a fried egg.” Oliver’s voice was preternaturally spooky, yet reassuring, like a benevolent narrator of ghost stories for children.
Cop Piece, subtitled “Episode One: A Series about Cops and Coping,” portrayed the conjoined fortunes of a pair of former partners, one a career beat cop, the other a demoted detective who became addicted to vice. The two are reunited on an unpromising stakeout of Carmine’s Pizzeria, the real-life shop across from the theatre on Norman. Played by Lewis, David is the beat cop who appears to be the more damaged character: deluding himself that he’s raising kids, he watches Japanese porn with his face against the screen, dances like a circus monkey, screams at the audience and into a corner, and runs full-speed into a wall. The detective, Samuel, played by Seth Powers, is stuck in a rehearsal of his diminished authority, repeating statements often and alternately cursing and missing his ex-wife. When he calmly and clearly states that he still loves her, Powers’ rich, balanced voice is like an emotional balm in the midst of the unremittent pathologies of the two men.
Lewis’ body movements are spastic, but particular, and he uses his mouth very well—at one point, he opens and shuts it like a parched man trying to glean the last molecule of moisture from his gums. For his part, Powers is commanding and stolid, his slicked brown hair and chiseled features recalling the wunderkind detective from the film “LA Confidential” had his career gone wrong. John Morena plays a third character, “On the Lam” Larry, who provides helpful bits of background for the two policemen, but whose role seems more nebulous than articulated.
I spoke with Lewis after the show, and he discussed incorporating Carmine’s—whose owner gave him the storefront space to work with—into the script. While working on a play, he said, “It’s about who’s around me, who am I writing with.” The inclusion produced a fluid combination of the universal and the local, making the production feel contemporary. Next up for lilac co and st. john’s theatre? A film project entitled “Situation Norman, 94,” that is currently in post-production.