My Father’s a Cop
Reviewed by Paul Birchall
Through January 28
Co-writer/performer Jerry Dean, in his 40s, is an amazing figure, with experiences that include robbing 25 Manhattan whorehouses before reaching adolescence, smoking crack cocaine, appearing in movies with Mickey Rourke and Tupac Shakur, and serving multiple stretches in both Sing Sing and Bellevue Hospital. The appeal of his stories, though, depends on your appetite for wallowing in the sewage-filled troughs of America’s demi-monde.
For some, navigating his tale of excess, mental instability, and self-destruction might provide compelling and thought-provoking enlightenment. If nothing else, Dean’s monologue, co-written with director Ken Brungardt, is an exercise in the extremes possible in the human condition: one moment, you may be starring in movies, while the next you’re in the crack house.
But I can’t help noticing that in some respects this two-hour monologue (with one intermission) is the theatrical equivalent of being cornered at a dinner party by that sleazy dude who you kinda want to run away from before he picks your pocket or boozily throws up on you. The stories Dean tells — having stoned sex with a celebrity’s daughter who demands he choke her into unconsciousness, or stealing pounds of pot from a drug dealer to fund his move to Los Angeles to find stardom — are genuinely shocking. The problem is, they’re recounted with a matter-of-factness that belies any dramatic adornment or emotional attachment.
Dean, who grew up in pre-gentrified Greenwich Village, was drawn to the life of a petty thug and con artist early on — this in spite of the fact that his dad was a veteran New York police detective. (Dad’s nonplussed reactions to his son’s nefarious deeds are peppered throughout the play in video interludes projected onto the rear wall.) The script, if this straightforward retelling of events can be called that, has the mood of a therapeutic exercise, whose purpose is to resolve and put into context the activities Dean has performed.
As a performer, Dean merely recites his story, with little adornment or elaboration. An ironic line reading here and there, and an occasional one liner suggest Dean may have latent performance skills, but the work is mostly delivered in a Wikipedia-like way.
What’s most disturbing is that Dean seems to have little concern for how his actions may have hurt others — indeed, you wonder if other people even enter his world view at all, unless they can be screwed or screwed over. Your entertainment quotient will probably depend on how the work connects with your already formulated world view: If you’re a weasel-ly wise guy, planning to con your boss or your friends, you will find it inspiring. If you’ve ever been a victim of a con or a crime in general, you’ll find the piece a rather discomfiting trigger.
For those of us in the latter category, My Father’s a Cop is a theatrical experience with an odd aftertaste, as you’re not certain whether to be amused or feel slightly guilty and complicit through the act of observing it.
Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through January 28. myfathersacop.brownpapertickets.com. Running time: two hours with an intermission.