BRISTOL, R.I. – In the battle of good and evil, it’s not always clear who stands on which side. Take, for instance, former NYPD narcotics detective Robert Leuci, who began his career as an idealistic young street cop trusting only his fellow blue suits but later enlisted with the District Attorney’s Office as an undercover agent exposing systemic corruption within the police precincts and court houses. A new play, “The Centurion,” depicts Leuci’s evolution from an altruistic officer to a corrupt cop to a mole on a road toward redemption. The original drama is shaping up at Roger Williams University next week before shipping out to New York City for its stage debut.
Based on his memoir, “All the Centurions,” the play was co-written by Leuci and University trustee Arlene Violet, a former prosecutor and Rhode Island Attorney General whose work against organized crime and corrupt politicians became the basis of her recent writings. Violet first learned of Leuci when she wrote her 2010 book, “The Mob and Me.”
“[His story is] the universal journey that a lot of people make and end up questioning their lives – have we deviated from our original ideals and justified them, or does it make us uncomfortable and we need to reintegrate our original ideals?” Violet says. “The play confronts the audience with situations wherein it is challenged to decide whether something that appears good may be bad – or vice versa.”
RWU Professor of Theatre Jeffrey B. Martin directs the play, and describes the production as “story-telling theater, where it’s transformational rather than fully realistically realized.” Recent graduate Danya Martin ’12, who begins a master’s degree in dramaturgy at Columbia University this fall, will serve as stage manager.
A somewhat experimental piece of theater, Rhode Island actors Matthew Royality-Lindman and Brien Lang will portray the younger and elder Leuci – as well as take up the task of numerous other characters, including a drug-addicted informant; a Cuban drug trafficker; a high school principal; and a district attorney.
“It’s all created through language and movement, with only about four props and two or three costume changes,” Martin explains.
As of yet an untested production, the producers have opted to open the final dress rehearsals to an audience. Audience members will have an opportunity to provide feedback to the cast and crew following the performance, Martin says.
“I want to see how an audience reacts to it, and talk to them afterward about what works and what doesn’t work.”
A free preview performance of “The Centurion” is open to the Roger Williams community on Wednesday, July 31, and Friday, August 2, at 7:00 p.m. at The Barn. The play premieres at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre’s Summerfest 2013 on August 4.