There’s a solid play lurking under “Night Hawks,” Dennis A. Pratt and Robert Vincent O’Neil’s world-premiere play at Crown City Theatre.
Despite unsuccessfully integrated supernatural elements and a predictable denouement, “Hawks” succeeds as a fun noir romp, crisply executed and diverting. Yet sans the Rod Serling-esque components sparsely sprinkled through the proceedings like three currants in an under-baked loaf, this could have been so much more.
Set designer Madison Orgill’s convincingly filthy diner (which looks as if it hasn’t been cleaned in … shall we say, an eternity?) is the rat-ridden locale where Harry (Gary Lee Reed) and Ray (Matthew Kimbrough), longtime partners in the murder-for-hire trade, meet to plan a final job.
Harry takes a special interest in Sadie (Claire Bermingham), the diner’s junkie waitress, who has been sadly beaten down by life and her abusive brute of a boyfriend, Raz (Jad Mager). When Raz and his dim-witted criminal associate, Jimmy (Adam Conger), arrive on the scene, tensions escalate to a deadly degree.
Co-directors O’Neil and Barry Pearl elicit naturalistic performances from their fine cast that wouldn’t be misplaced in an Arthur Miller revival. Reed and Kimbrough are particularly excellent as aging tough guys who are the only constants in each other’s lonely lives.
In such a slice-of-life setting, however, the play’s periodically surreal elements drop into the action with interruptive thuds. Presently, “Night Hawks” is stuck between a straight play and a “Twilight Zone” retread, and the authors should consider either heavily augmenting the outré or eliminating it altogether. Redemption is an over-arching theme of the play, and one senses that, with a judicious tweak or three, “Hawks” could be on the path to just that.
“Night Hawks,” Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends July 14. $25. (818) 605-5685. www.crowncitytheatre.com. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.