Witness for the Prosecution
On September 20th, TheatreWorks New Milford will open Agatha Christie's theatrical masterpiece, WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION. I was honored to be allowed to attend the final dress rehearsal along with a large group of senior citizens who were invited to attend for free on the evening before it officially opens on Friday. The house managers actually had to start a stand-by list because of the number of seniors that came out to see the final dress.
What is this play about? Well, a young man, Leonard Vole, is arrested for the murder of Miss Emily French, a wealthy older British woman. Unaware that he was a married man, Miss French made him her principal heir, casting suspicion on Leonard. In a spellbinding courtroom showdown scene, his wife agrees to testify...not in Leonard's defense, but as a "witness for the prosecution!"
"It's the masterpiece that started it all with its ingenious approach to the essential questions behind any heinous crime: What really happened? Why? Who's lying? Who ISN'T? You'll soon have all the answers, but please...PLEASE..don't reveal the ending!" - Frank Arcaro
The action takes place in 1950 London, between the chambers of Sir Wilfred Robarts, Q.C., and the Old Bailey (Central Criminal Court) in London, as well as one foggy London street. The scenic and lighting design by Leif Smith takes the characters back and forth easily, although the large courtroom never disappears. Sound operated by Jaden Herbest featured incidental music and crowd noise at important parts. Costumes by Alyse Lamb fit the period and tone very well, and court wigs by Wigboys did not detract.
This production is under the fine direction of Frank Arcaro of Roxbury, CT (PROOF,) was produced by Viv Berger of Shelton, and features a wonderful cast. It was a pleasure to see a slew of mature character actors in the various roles. Entrances through the house were well-lit and added to the authentic feel, as did sitting opposing counsel amongst the audience members of the jury seated in the front two rows. They didn't have anything to do, although I think they were asked by costumed actors to take a pledge before the lights went down.
Daniel Basiletti of Bewster, NY played the role of Leonard Vole in his third TW production. I remembered him as Hal in the 2018 production of PROOF and he was also in LEADING LADIES in 2015. He gave a strong performance as the accused, who is married to the enigmatic Romaine. This shady lady was played well by Thursday Savage (AND THEN THERE WERE NONE at the Warner) of Stratford, in her TW debut. Jonathan Jacobson of Litchfield (I DO, I DO! with TW, DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS at the Warner) was perfectly cast as Sir Wilfred Roberts and gave a memorable performance.
CCSU graduate Carl Agostino of Waterbury played a police officer in his TW debut, Gale Alexander (DARK MATTER as director) of New Milford appeared as Dr. Wyatt. Dee Dee Ball Calvey of New Milford learned "the Queen's English" to portray the court usher for her first appearance on this stage. Suzy DeYoung of Newtown, usually seen behind the scenes as a segment producer for GMA and Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee, made her theatrical debut in two roles, that of Greta in the office of Sir Wilfred as well as Miss Clegg.
Evelyn DeRobertis of New Milford returned to the stage to play the court stenographer, and Timothy Huber of Danbury, who played Bob Cratchit in A CHRISTMAS CAROL with NewArts, took to the TW stage for the first time to portray Mr. Myers. Jonathan Ross of Thomaston got several laughs as Mr. Justice Wainwright who presides over the trial; Mr. Ross has performed in over 30 roles at this theater, and on many other area theater stages. Roger Netzer of Roxbury took on the role of Inspector Hearne in his TW debut. Rob Pawlikowski of Roxbury (SWEENEY TODD with TBTA,) was Mr. Mayhew.
Maureen Sheehan of Woodbury, who is a newcomer to TW, played housekeeper Janet MacKenzie channeling the spirit of her late grandmother Nanny Sheehan and young Kati Seppa of New Milford, normally seen on the Thomaston Opera House stage, played the other woman. Eric Gatten played a warder in his first on-stage appearance in a drama; his wife Terri Gatten played the role of Miss Carter. Peter Phillip (9 to 5, BYE, BYE BIRDIE at Musicals at Richter) appeared as a clerk of the court.
This was my third time seeing WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION and even though I remembered the ending and much more, I still enjoyed this very professional production. Be forewarned that the drama runs for approximately 2.5 hours with one longish intermission, and bring a sweater if it is cool outside.