BWW Review: WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION at TheatreWorks New Milford
To many, the idea of a courtroom drama is boring and uneventful. But to others, the idea of a court case being presented on stage is intellectually thrilling as you get to follow the conversations and watch information get teased and extracted over time. The key to a successful courtroom drama is to keep it intellectually thrilling while highlighting the moments of action to keep the distracted focused. With such a strong script such as Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution, TheatreWorks in New Milford, under the direction of Frank Arcaro, was able to focus more on highlighting the moments of action and letting Christie's story take care of itself. Through strong performance, smart staging, and a well-designed set, TheatreWorks New Milford was able to present a thrilling mystery to a captive audience.
Arguably, the most important rule of performing is to never play the ending. This is especially important in courtroom mysteries like Witness for the Prosecution. The distinction between what the actor knows and what the character knows is vital and the slightest betrayal of the former to the latter can spoil the whole show for the audience. In an effort to avoid spoilers in this review, I'll briefly discuss the performances of the three main characters: Leonard Vole, the accused, Romaine, his wife, and Sir Wilfrid Robarts, Leonard's lawyer. Leonard Vole's naive charm, adoringly played by Daniel Basiletti, is endearing to the audience and makes his surprise when Romaine turns up to testify against him feel like a dagger to the heart. Thursday Savage's cool, calm, collected, and powerful Romaine plays a perfect contrast to Leonard, if her actions and her words seem disjointed from each other in moments of high emotional intensity. Lastly, Jonathan Jacobson's intellectual, sympathetic, and articulate Sir Wilfrid Robarts was a thrill to listen to when he was weaving together his legal threads in the courtroom.
Lief Smith's design of the courtroom was clever and complimented Arcaro's staging. Placing the judge upstage and off the ground allowed him to remain seen during the proceedings; placing Vole's stand and the witness stand on opposite sides of the stage provided a clear focus for the audience to know who to look at; lastly, placing the two lawyers in the audience gave each of them their respective space to move when questioning witnesses without getting in each other's ways. Creating these lanes of focus and avoiding blocking other actors made the stage look bigger than it really is but not too big that the actors felt small.
Letting the words speak for themselves freed up time to bring the staging of Witness for the Prosecution to life and keep the audience invested throughout the long stretches of questions and answers. TheatreWorks New Milford brought the best out of Christie's clever script and created a thrilling mystery for the audience to solve with the characters.