Brian Greer, Nick Bixby, Al Di Martino,
and Daniel Brown in Newyorkland
(© Scott Fetterman)
Brian Greer, Nick Bixby, Al Di Martino,
and Daniel Brown in Newyorkland
(© Scott Fetterman)
With Newyorkland, playing at the Baryshnikov Arts Center as part of P.S. 122's COIL Festival, director/designer Kenneth Collins and co-creator William Cusick take audiences into the lives of the men of the NYPD to create an often chilling and breathlessly exciting work that investigates the dangers which cops encounter in the line of duty. Unfortunately, Newyorkland can also be gruelingly monotonous (even as it resuscitates high-octane scenarios).

Among the show's most successful moments are the monologues in which the men in blue discuss their emotions about their work and its effect on their lives. In one of the show's many video segments, one young officer (Nick Bixby) describes the moments surrounding the first time he had to shoot to kill. In Bixby's understated delivery, the memory has a palpable poignancy, which is only enhanced by audiences' knowledge that some sections of the script have been taken from interviews with members of the police force.

Equally pungent are the show's opening moments when another cop (played by Brian Greer) goes over the details of his cases with a deadpan, emotional matter-of-factness that belies the painful reality of what he's seen. And, during another section, two of the performers explore the stage using only flashlights to cut through complete darkness, bringing to life the fearlessness that the men and women in blue demonstrate as they confront the unknown on duty.

Yet, there are times when audiences will find that Newyorkland can simply feel as if it is a bad recapitulation of overly familiar images of policework. In one film, a woman (Ximena Garnica) screams in a foreign language as a few officers attempt to control her while others photograph the body of a bloodied man in a recliner.

Another video depicts how the serenity of a police precinct of the 1970s -- where many of the guys are sporting Village People-like mustaches -- is broken by the violent outbursts of a handcuffed, seemingly drugged man.

Similarly, when the text strives for poeticism, the production proves to be genuinely unconvincing. One man (Daniel Brown) describes walking alone at night by saying "The city momentarily becomes a smooth interrelated system and no longer a series of irrational unrelated images."

All of the action and video is underscored by John Sully's ominously droning music and soundscape on a stage that Collins has divided into three sections, which,intriguingly create an apt visual metaphor for the cops' mental compartmentalization.