Athrowback to the ’60s realism of plays such as “The Brig” and “Slow Dance on the Killing Ground,” Tony DiMurro’s “The Coyote Bleeds” is a cop drama that gets way too wrapped up in its own symbolism and ultimately has little of interest to say about why people, or at least detectives, do the nasty things they do. What “Coyote” does do well, however, is showcase some good talent, and in that, too, the bare-bones production is a throwback to a kind of showcase downtown theater that has all but disappeared in New York.
The setup is that an old-time, racist detective none too subtly named Hunt Moore (Peter Appel) has pegged a black guy, McKinley Greene (Chauncey de Leon Gilbert) as the perpetrator of a heinous rape and murder. With his wet-behind-the-ears partner (Anthony Mangano), Moore coerces a confession from Greene, but the whole process proves to be Moore’s downfall.
Much is made of the trapped coyote who chews off his leg, only to die anyway through loss of blood.
I confess that even at its best this kind of drama leaves me angling for the nearest exit, and “Coyote Bleeds” isn’t among the best; nearly every line rings false, and Jeff Cohen’s staging is so extraordinarily slack that what should be a couple of hours of high-tension theater devolves almost instantly into snoozarama drama.
Nevertheless, they have got a few things right. You head downtown — way downtown — to a storefront theater, and the passing fire engines and EMS trucks lend their own verismo to Julie Melton’s dead-on crummy precinct set.
Peter Appel, looking for all the world like Richard Gere on steroids for 10 years, has a nice, nasty meanness as Moore, and the background jazz makes sense. But the story doesn’t; it all feels like slumming.