PROVO — Tonight is the last night to enjoy BYUArts’ production of The Stakeout.

You should.

The 2022 comedy drama is a hilarious, heartfelt champion of the New York fringe circuit featuring its original Off Broadway cast of playwright/actor Martin Dockery and Andrew Broaddus.

It starts as a fairly straight comedy with an absurdist bent featuring two unnamed FBI agents in a van on a stakeout. For one agent, it’s his first job. For the other, it’s his last. The fun begins before the show even starts (no spoilers), and the whip-smart script earns laughs left and right, beginning with the first line “You ever get the feeling you’re being watched?”

Laughs come fast as the men discuss life, love, espionage and absent fathers. Both characters are arrogant as can be (they are FBI agents after all), but soon their differences become apparent. Broaddus plays the younger agent, whose personal insecurities are quickly revealed — he’s the type of guy who cries in the shower, not that there’s anything wrong with that. While Dockery’s character has a personal “no-emotions” policy — in one of the play’s many funny lines, he says “You gotta learn to exile your heart to a dungeon in your foot.”

The one-act, 75-minute play consists of pure dialogue between the two characters as the script skillfully combines sizzlingly funny and searingly poignant language. Comedic gold like “Relationships are just dune buggies driven by monkeys off the Cliffs of Dover” butts up against achingly sincere lines like “Everything has everything to do with everything” and “The pain inflicted on someone else is really pain inflicted on ourselves.”

But what begins as a straightforward, hilarious comedy doesn’t stay that way. In its back half, The Stakeout unrolls into a heartfelt, time-and-space warping therapy session, where the characters themselves become fluid as their minds process long-repressed trauma. In the process, the play unpacks the events that led both characters emotionally to where they are today — one jaded and closed off, the other oversensitive.

This astute treatment of trauma brings to mind the modern psychology of Bessel van der Kolk (author of the #1 bestseller “The Body Keeps The Score) and Francine Shapiro (founder of EMDR therapy), who suggested that the human body itself keeps a record of traumatic events, and we never stop living in those moments. If our father abandons us when we were six, as in the play, a part of us continues to be a traumatized six year old until those wounds are healed. “We all feel we are every age that we have ever been,” a character observes.

The play’s heady turn from comedy to psychological drama transforms The Stakeout from a fun, clever buddy comedy to something much more meaningful, and it’s all the better for it.

Show closes tonight, April 13. Photo credit: Michael Muchnij

Technical elements were simple and keeping with the play’s fringe origins. The set consists of two black chairs, center stage, bathed in a circle of white light — like the beam from an FBI helicopter. The white circle is surrounded by a swath of police-light blue which floods the rest of the stage. There is a single sound effect and single light cue (tech was provided by an uncredited BYUArts crew and based on original production notes) with canned, pre-show music by 60s schlockmeister Neil Richardson. The only imperfect element that Dockery’s mic was a little spotty at times — it never completely cut out, but something was slightly amiss. The show is directed by Venessa Quesnelle.

Dockery and Broaddus are excellent, and it’s a joy to see big-city actors on the stage in humble Utah. The pair milks every ounce of comedy out of the script, and every body movement is thoroughly considered and tastefully executed. I particularly enjoyed how the physical nervousness of Broaddus’ agent, with twisted feet and crossed arms, transferred to Dockery during the course of the play.

The Stakeout is certainly a head trip, and one worth taking. In the end, the play’s buddy comedy is simply an, ahem, cover for a cranial shakedown. This turn may cause a few casual patrons to leave scratching their heads, but discerning audience members with a taste for fringe will leave comedically and dramatically satisfied.

Bravo to BYUArts’ Bravo! series for bringing this delightful, meaningful production straight from New York.

The Stakeout plays April 12-13 at 7:30 PM in the West Campus Mainstage Theatre (1335 WCCB) at Brigham Young University in Provo. Tickets are $12-33. For more information, visit

This review was generously sponsored by a grant from the Provo City Recreation, Arts, and Park (RAP) grant.