Barry Malawer is very good at selling houses. He has a couple of new sales performance awards, as an associate broker with Coldwell Banker Katonah, to prove it.
Real estate is the day job he’s had for 14 years. For a lot longer than that, since he was in high school, Mr. Malawer has spent “down time” honing his hand at writing plays.
The years of discipline and deep thinking and creating characters who speak his words are proving fruitful for the Yorktown resident. This week, he heads to Off-Broadway for the Feb. 11 opening of his play “dEAD dOG pARK.” It is being presented through March 6 at 59E59 Theaters (which is the address) by Boz and The Bard Productions, Inc. in association with Bedlam Theater.
The plot hinges on what happens after a New York City policeman is accused of pushing an African-American teenager out a fourth-floor window after a chase on foot. The boy survives, hanging on to life in a hospital, as his enraged mother and her very clear-eyed if cynical lawyer seek their version of justice in a civil suit against the officer.
Despite the echo of headlines that persisted in 2015 news coverage—about the tension between law enforcement and black communities across America—Mr. Malawer started writing “dEAD dOG pARK” some 20 years ago.
In various productions over several years, it has made the rounds of theaters in Westchester, Putnam and Orange counties. I saw it four years ago at the Philipstown Depot Theater in Garrison Landing. So did a gentleman with first-hand, front-line knowledge of race relations between police and minorities.
After seeing the play, and identifying himself as Mike P., he sent an email to the playwright. He explained that he was the commanding officer of the 43rd Precinct in the Bronx during the infamous incident in 1999 when an unarmed African immigrant named Amadou Diallo was shot to death by four members of the N.Y.P.D. who fired 41 times.
Officer Mike P. said he was instrumental in investigating that case, which saw the officers acquitted of the charge of murder.
Officer P. goes on to write in his note that he also was involved in cases where a suspect fell from a window while interacting with police, and that he had “spoken to mothers who lost their children to police violence.”
Finally, he wrote to Mr. Malawer (a white suburbanite with no background in law enforcement): “I cannot for the life of me understand how you could write a play such as this without living it, but you did!”
Barry Malawer calls that “the greatest email I ever received.”
What especially impressed Mike P. is how the play takes pains not to pass judgment on any of its characters. “I don’t take sides,” says the writer. “There is no politics in the play.” I can vouch for that fact. The playwright’s core concerns can be boiled down to two words: accountability and fate.
The only two people in the play who know what happened are the cop and the suspect who went out the window. It becomes a matter of one person’s word against another, or “he said, he said.”
Mr. Malawer paints a painstakingly even-handed portrait of how everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions, including the media, whose presence and goading cannot help but affect the way people behave in the glare of lights.
To complicate matters, when standing before the scales of justice, being held accountable for one’s actions does not always equate with being guilty. The most earnest efforts of our justice system to be fair does not make it infallible.
He says that even when we intend to do the right thing, it can become misinterpreted, and even punished. “Your fate is locked into what the gods decide your fate is. Our intentions are not the deciding factor of our fate.”
To put up the Off-Broadway production of “dEAD dOG pARK” required a $100,000 investment by a single backer. “For people to be investing that kind of money in something I wrote is very humbling,” said Mr. Malawer.
“Write what you know” is what writers are told. “dEAD dOG pARK” is a departure for the real estate broker who also has been a pickle salesman.
His other major plays include a trilogy about growing up on Long Island: “Chrysler,” “Cadillac” and “Chokeotte Dreams.” It was a privilege for me to be play Mr. Malawer’s father in a recent production of “Cadillac.”
At this point, he allows, “I’ve run out of things to say about my family.”
That sound you just heard was Barry Malawer’s family breathing a heavy sigh of relief.
For information about tickets to “dEAD dOG pARK,” visit 59E59.org or call 212-279-4200.
Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce the Blog, is chief content officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency whose clients include Franzoso Contracting and other local businesses. He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency that works with The Winery at St. George, Yorktown Feast of San Gennaro, Jefferson Valley Mall, Yorktown Stage, Axial Theatre, Armonk Players and others. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Reach him at email@example.com or 914-275-6887.