The 85-minute one-act then turns into the story of a police interrogation by an established detective (Monroe Barrick) and the department's new blood (Jessica Ludd), who just can't get along. That's the first tough sell; the 'tude between the two is nasty beyond working-together belief. The old hand is stern and cold in his resentment, the young Turk is endlessly, eye-rollingly arrogant in hers - at least, in the portrayals by Barrick and Ludd, who play these characters as extremes.
The second strain on credibility comes from the way the plot unfolds: A defense lawyer (Michael Bartlett) is present in the interrogation room, and conversations of the sort that both police and lawyers generally avoid, in order to stay out of future trouble during court cases, ensue. This, of course, happens often incidentally during crime shows on TV, but in How to Kill a Child and a Demon, it's a driver of the story.
Even so, the play has a sharp, inviting theatricality and the script, an easy rhythm - there's no doubt that Love, who teaches writing to inner-city youngsters and has written several plays, has a way with dialogue and plot. As the director, too, he moves How to Kill a Child and a Demon along with an aptly changing momentum, particularly in a key scene with the mother and father of the dead and brain-dead children, played convincingly by DeAnna Wright and Tobi Gadison.
So, the play has its moments, good and bad. The bad ones come from an interplay of characters that feels too easy, without nuance. The good ones come in a smooth narrative arc with psychological elements that make it all the more interesting.
How to Kill a Child and a Demon
Through Sunday at the Adrienne Theatre 2d Stage, 2030 Sansom St. Tickets: $20. Information: www.putf.org.
Contact staff writer Howard Shapiro at 215-854-5727, firstname.lastname@example.org, or #philastage on Twitter. Hear his reviews at the Classical Network, www.wwfm.org. Follow our theater coverage at www.philly.com/phillystage or on Facebook.