Sidney Kingsley was a major playwright of the '30s and '40s. He won a Pulitzer Prize his first time out for a surgeon drama called Men in White -- "Quick, Nurse! The adrenaline!" is its most famous line -- then two Drama Critics Circle Awards. He doesn't seem like much now, mostly because his action dramas are now the staple of television -- Men in White has become ER; Detective Story is Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue or whatever.
But it is always interesting to have a serious production of what thrilled Grandma and Grandpa, especially if the play allows a lot of actors to get onstage and show what they can do. Goodness knows, the Theatre Guild of Webster Groves' production of Detective Story is serious, and a 23-member cast is, today at least, huge. But the Theatre Guild's stage really isn't large enough for such a big play (no room, for instance, for the very necessary holding cell), and although every part is covered, the quality of the acting varies considerably. Some, of course, is wonderful. Charlie Milburn's Lt. Monoghan is right on target all evening long. Erin Rainwater, graceful as a lily, is a touching, even heartbreaking Mary McLeod, and Matt Holtmann and Jennifer Blankenheim do well as the good-kid-gone-off-the-tracks and the girl-who-sticks-by-him. Ken Brostow's direction is better than competent, and Brostrow and Keith Vaugier's set does better than one could expect with the limited space available.