In Craig Alpaugh’s The Neighborhood Crime Watch, a pair of burglars break into a
Canoga Park home. One wears pantyhose over his head, the legs dangling over
his face like long rabbit ears. The other is elegantly dressed. They are brothers,
improbably so as the elegantly dressed one looks thirty to forty years older than the
one wearing the panty hose, once he has removed them. Older brother would
rather die than go back to prison he says. After all, “prisons are filled with
dangerous criminals and elected officials.” The burgling brothers have been
nicknamed “The Brunch Bandits.” Their motto is “We dine and then we steal,”
though all they can find in the kitchen of this house is a boring tuna fish sandwich.
(In an early break-in, there wasn’t a thing to eat, so they ordered pizza.)
When Lisa, the attractive youngish owner, arrives home, they hide behind the
curtains. Mona, a middle-aged neighbor wearing curlers and a muumuu (over
slacks and high heels) drops by. It seems that there’s about to be a neighborhood
crime watch meeting in this very house. When the coast is temporarily clear, the
brothers attempt to escape through the front door, are discovered by Lisa and, on
an impulse, pretend that they have just come in (by said front door) to attend the
The older brother, Ronald, informs Mona and Lisa that he and younger brother
Donald are “daredevils” by trade, leading to an amusing slapstick sequence
where Donald rushes around the room and up and down the stairs demonstrating
his “daredevil” skills. Ronald is fond of referencing movie idols of his youth, such as
Cary Grant, Burt Lancaster, Humphrey Bogart, etc., and appears to be of their era.
A priest soon arrives, around which time the following exchange takes place
between two of the characters.
–She was violated.
–Was she penetrated?
–Well, she’s convinced that somebody was inside. She’s upstairs trying to see if
anything is missing.
Then there is this later exchange with the priest.
–You’re a priest. You love everyone.
–I don’t like Liza Minelli.
Still later, after two of the characters have begun to fall for each other:
–I hate you. I love you. You make me sick.
–That’s okay. People will think we’re married.
Apparently the brothers are trying to avoid a boring life like that of their deceased
alcoholic father, who worked for the phone company. “He never missed a day’s
work,” explains one of them, “even when he was sober.”
Mayhem ensues. The priest comments, “I haven’t seen such violence since I was a
guest on Jerry Springer. Mona tells Ronald, “If you’re going to have your way with
the women, take me first,” to which Ronald replies, “I’d rather go alone.” Later,
when one of the characters is told to “get the bag,” he grabs Mona. Somewhere
along the way, a policewoman, Officer Bybie, has joined the group. (She’s come
to lead the neighborhood crime watch meeting, only to find herself captive.)
There’s also a bleached blond 50something psychiatrist who sports a diamond in
one ear, and despite what I took to be a lascivious interest in the younger brother
in Act 1, later declares himself in need of “the love of a good woman,” upon which
he falls for one of the female hostages.
There are three funny sequences in The Neighborhood Crime Watch, which
was directed by Richard Alan Woody, and features a very good suburban house
set design by Chris Winfield. Besides the aforementioned daredevil sequence
(William Joseph Hill as Donald, showing a knack for physical comedy), there’s a
laugh-inducing Act 2 chase around the house. Each time one of the neighbors
escapes from the living room into another room, one of the brothers chases after
him/her, at which time another neighbor escapes into a different room, causing
the other brother to chase after him/her, allowing another hostage to attempt an
escape through another door. And on and on. A funny sequence amusingly
staged and performed. Later, after the house has been surrounded by police, the
burglars force their hostages to link arms to form a “human shield circle” with the
two burglars inside. In order to practice their escape maneuvers, the linked actors
are told first to move slowly towards the door, then to jog in place, then (the
ultimate test) to rush into the kitchen. Inspired slapstick from the ensemble, which
in addition to Hill includes Mark Atha as the psychiatrist, Bix Barnaba as Ronald,
Julie Davis as Lisa, Kady Douglas as Mona, Krissie Lee as the police officer, and Tom
Regan as Father Bob.
Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood.
October 6, 2007
Photos: Doug Engalla