If madcap antics are your cup of tea, you could do no better than to get your tickets now for a double bill of Police Cops and (in the illustrious tradition of sequels improving upon the original by adding “In Space” to their name) Police Cops In Space. At an hour apiece, each performance is a nonstop absurdist thrill ride packed to brimming with enough smart gags and lovingly referential winks and nudges for a play at least…three times bigger.
Tom Roe, Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson (Photo by Will Hazel)
Written and presented by The Pretend Men and now playing at 59E59 Theaters as part of their brilliant annual Brits Off-Broadway series, this is must-see for the whole family — minus the ones who might take offense at boy bodies, homoerotic killer robots, ill-timed costume malfunctions and fill-in-the-blank improv attempts that don’t always achieve liftoff. Still, it’s all so good-natured and The Pretend Men so willing to take chances that even the moments of utmost imperfection are, much like the trio’s American accents, exceedingly noble failures.
Zachary Hunt (Photo courtesy of The Pretend Men)
Unlike some of the much (much) more polished productions that grace the stages during the Brits series, Police Cops stand out for their scrappiness and eccentricity. The fabulously silly trio of Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson, and Tom Roe make the most out of bad 70s and 80s B-movie tropes, splicing together first a buddy cop movie and then an intergalactic coming-of-age redemption story. Nostalgia hangs heavy in the air, not unlike nitrous oxide, inspiring giggles, guffaws and every laugh in between. In abundance.
The central character to Police Cops, Jimmy Johnson, the best damn police cop ever, is out to make sense of his life after the tragic shooting of his teenage brother father (yes, brother father) when they get caught up in a car chase gone wrong. As an adult, Jimmy needs to prove himself and honor his brother father’s dying request that he become the best damn police cop ever. He picks up a brand new washed up old partner and gets down to business reining in the Hernandez crime ring.
Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson, and Tom Roe (Photo courtesy of The Pretend Men)
Police Cops In Space picks up a few decades later, as Jimmy Johnson’s grandson Sammy Johnson is charged by his dying grandfather with the task of saving planet Earth from a murderous robot army led by a mirthfully challenged robot mastermind named Tanner. Where Police Cops is almost completely ridiculous, Police Cops In Space is fully completely ridiculous, unabashedly, though it does help to have seen the first when you see the second.
Each of The Pretend Men takes on a heaping handful of roles, gamely throwing themselves around the stage, sometimes with brilliantly evocative choreography and musical accompaniment. Creative use of props, which also range from the ridiculous to the sublime, more than compensates for the absence of stage dressing or scenery. As performers, their enthusiasm is boundless, their comedic timing pitch-perfect, and their abdominal muscles admirable. But don’t take our word for it.
Top: Nathan Parkinson, Zachary Hunt, Tom Roe in POLICE COPS. Photo by Massimo Battista
Police Cops and Police Cops In Space
Written and performed by The Pretend Men: Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson, and Tom Roe
Now playing at 59E59 Theaters through July 1, 2018