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Behind the Badge

nytheatre.com review by Heather Olmstead
August 11, 2012

Behind the Badge is the story of two cops, one NYPD the other LAPD, told by their sons. Marrick Smith and Lachlan McKinney co-wrote and perform in this autobiographical piece. Through a series of non-linear anecdotes we get a glimpse of these men’s relationships with their family and their experience on the force. The story was interesting enough to keep my attention, though not always easy to follow. There’s a lot of potential here for an engaging show.

The opening and closing scenes were seamlessly crafted and performed. Both actors telling us at the same time two different experiences of having a father who was a cop was very effective. I was looking forward to learning who these very different men are, sadly I dodn’t feel like I got much more than a peek. There was some humor early on, especially when the fathers are dealing with their sons hitting puberty, but things got heavy fairly quickly. We watch as Lachlan’s father, a Marine turned LAPD officer, guides his son to manhood. We get to see the way many different incidents as a member of the Emergency Service Unit for the NYPD affect Marrick’s father. His nightmares of being a first responder to the 9/11 attacks and the aftermath of those attacks are chilling and heart wrenching.

Behind the Badge is meant “to give audiences a new perspective into the lives of those sworn to protect and serve.” Unfortunately there were too many story snippets thrown at us disjointedly that I couldn’t get a firm grasp on who these men were as cops or human beings. I dodn’t feel like I got the promised insight. Delving deeper into some of the more compelling stories would have been more revealing. Trying to cram two officers’ entire careers and family lives into one hour is too much to give more than a cursory view.

Marrick and Lachlan would have benefitted from a more experienced hand guiding them. Both actors portray themselves, their families and a slew of other cops and civilians. There was not enough physical variation to define the characters; a more specific change in voice or posture would have more clearly told me which character I was seeing. Volume issues, both the sound effects being too loud and the actors not loud enough, also detracted from the clarity of show. That’s a shame because for the most part Rebecca Stoll’s sound design supported the story telling in a wonderful way. It frustrated me not being able to hear the actors over her very effective ambient soundscape.

I really wanted to like Behind the Badge more than I did. The concept interested me and there is definite promise. More depth and clarity of character is all that’s needed to truly reveal these men behind the badge.