The final offering in the Storefront Theatre’s 2013 season, Special Constables is a send-up of Hollywood action thrillers like Heat and Lethal Weapon, set almost entirely on the Toronto Transit Commission’s subway and streetcar system. Its team of mismatched and idiosyncratic transit cops is led by Constable Jameson (Tim Walker), an obsessive investigator with peculiarly heightened senses of taste and hearing. Or rather, the team was led by Jameson; a hinted-at disaster on Jameson’s watch has led to the disbanding of the TTC’s constables, a move that has transformed the transit system into a “lawless wasteland.”
(This plot device was inspired by the loss of TTC constables’ arrest powers—powers that were recently restored, but only after Special Constables had begun its run.)
Jameson must convince his former deputies Mouse (a brainy Amy Kitz) and Stokes (a brawler played by Conor Bradbury, who, between his Dothraki king in Throne of Games and his adventurer in Callaghan, we haven’t seen wearing shirt sleeves on stage all year) to help him investigate a string of Metropass thefts “off the clock.”
In a nod to the structure of Michael Mann’s Heat, we spend as much time following the heist perpetrators as the titular cops. Cold and haughty Three Tone (Colin Munch) is the mastermind, while Chris Wilson and Michael Dyke play his befuddled lackeys.
Munch and Wilson should be familiar to Fringe Festival and sketch comedy fans for their work in Sex T-Rex and Peter n’ Chris shows, respectively, and the very physical aspect of those shows—they featured tightly choreographed action scenes—is on display here. There were plenty of bravura sequences, like a streetcar chase through the downtown core that ends up in the Skydome (sorry, Rogers Centre), and a montage of petty crimes during commuter hours. Others sequences, though, didn’t entirely come together: at the first public performance of Special Constables, a clever flashlight-lit chase through a “Metropass factory” was too long by half, for instance, as was a tense meet between Jameson and Three Tone that echoed Heat‘s De Niro and Pacino scene. But we’ve heard buzz since then that this ensemble has been tightening up these loose screws with each show.
A recent Globe and Mail article praised Storefront Theatre, and other small “found” spaces adapted for performance, for making theatre more local and accessible, and more welcoming to non-traditional theatre audiences—and Special Constables, with its blending of comedy and theatre performers and its intensely local subject matter, is certainly following those tracks. If you’re going to the show, a reminder to TTC patrons: leaving Ossington Station by the Delaware exit will place you kitty-corner right across the street from the Storefront Theatre.