Highway Patrol review-Dana Delaney at The Goodman Theatre Chicago

Dot-Marie Jones and Dana Delany in Highway Patrol at the Goodman Theatre, photo by Liz Lauren
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The Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, Chicago, is currently presenting Highway Patrol through February 18, 2024, a world premiere starring Dana Delaney, Dot-Marie Jones and Thomas Murphy Molony. The piece was crafted by Delaney herself, based on her digital archives, in collaboration with Jen Silverman, Dane Laffrey and Mike Donahue, who also directs. Billed as a “ground-breaking new thriller,” Highway Patrol is a remarkably technically competent pastiche of non-emergent communication, a study in sedate recollection; it is, however, singularly lacking in emotional pizazz. 

Dot-Marie Jones, Dana Delaney and Thomas Murphy Molony

It’s never easy to pull out what makes a play less than a stellar success, especially, as here, one that holds out such promise- the lure of Emmy award winning Dana Delaney as creator and actor, the provenance of The Goodman Theatre in all its superiority of stagecraft and direction, a fine small cast. Yet Highway Patrol falls flat.

It’s a “one-gag” piece: the protagonist- Dana Delaney herself, as herself, coming out of character at the end by showing us her own historical evidence to prove this happened to herself- is suckered into an alarmingly long factitious virtual relationship per social media, phone calls, email, and the like. There is never any face-to-face contact between Ms. Delaney and the so-called people with whom she interacts. There is no IRL (IN REAL LIFE) happening, so how could we as the audience be affected as though the events REALLY took place? Even Delaney- attractive and affable as she is in the flesh- barely moves around the stage except to extract wine from the fridge again and again and again, in a simulacrum of pressing the keypad again and again and again…

Dana Delaney, Jen Silverman, Mike Donahue and Dane Laffrey

The premise or intent of the play-the real question undoubtedly is- how have any of us been cornered, trapped, sequestered and trivialized into substituting bits of printed matter for the depth and timbre of real voices; letting pat twitted phrases do for expressions of love? What happened to touching? Highway Patrol does an excellent job of demonstrating disaffection, but it fails to engage our affection. It seems clear that this 95-minute product is meant to be an object lesson in what life is/isn’t really all about, but it sure felt like an exercise in non-authenticity. The play needs editing and probably a more cogent ending- here it drifts out of sync into other life experiences that aren’t necessary and dilute the plot.

Kudos, however, are due to Delaney for her interpersonal bravery in daring to reveal and dramatize her life, risky as that can be for someone who was the subject of a years long, intricate and very private scam. She clearly cared deeply and gave overwhelming amounts of her time to the most nefarious cyberstalking imaginable, and emerged strong enough to seek the truth and bare it to the world. Praise is also due to the young Molony for the sheer amount of material he absorbed and how he remained in (non) character. And a big bouquet to thrice Emmy-nominated Dot-Marie Jones who imbued the ACTUAL PERSON (and others) with wit, relish and discernment.

All photos provided by The Goodman Theatre.

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  1. I certainly agree with what you say about Highway Patrol.
    I would like to add that sitting in the mezzanine, I found the young actor very hard to understand. His upper voice was nails on blackboards. The only interest of this play was the end of act I as you noted. My husband wanted to leave at the intermission, but I thought that we would enjoy the second act.
    My mistake. I was totally disappointed by the hype before seeing the play. Perhaps Shakespeare wouldn’t mind if I call this play Much Ado About Nothing.

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