The Arden – 74 Seconds to Judgment

Reviewer: Steele

 

The Takeaways

  • Beautiful performances from an ensemble
  • A refreshing jury play that doesn’t become 12 Angry Men
  • Strong design work

 

In my pockets

I know the playwright and expected a good show. I’m Black, so unjustified murders of Black men hit home for me.

 

Design

A prop designer isn’t listed in the program, but the props and the set at large helped set up the world of the play with great detail (set designed by Dustin Pettegrew). Something as simple as the type of tupperware the character Kim (Julianna Zinkel) brought to the jury room told the backstories of the characters outside the single room the audience was able to see. The leftover Chinese food containers in the fridge, the signage on the bulletin board, etc all created a world we can recognize.

The lighting design (Kathy A. Perkins) was instrumental in illuminating the show within the show. The shift in lighting became more dramatic as the characters went from jokingly portraying the people in the trial to fully embodying them. The lighting was a huge part of transforming the space from the jury room to the outside world and circumstances.

Fight choreographer J. Alex Cordaro’s work made the altercations feel realistic, and created a natural buildup that really made the audience feel the tension.

The costuming (Alison Roberts) felt natural and appropriate for each character. This is direction-related also, but I enjoyed the use of the costume pieces (glasses, hoodies, sweaters) as a mechanism to showcase when an actor was portraying their character vs. when they were portraying someone from the trial. The costume pieces also served as a signal for when a character felt comfortable or uncomfortable in a scene, which was really effective.

 

Performances

I commend all the actors on their work. They brought real humans to the stage. Even characters with opinions I didn’t agree with were relatable and felt real. The shifts that the actors made in their body language and voice when turning into people from the trial were beautiful to watch. Each actor played at least two different people, and those differences were clear and intentional.

 

Direction

Amina Robinson did a really lovely job ensuring very distinct differences in character between the actual jurors and the people from the case they portrayed. She also led the actors in beautiful ensemble work. It was clear from the beginning that these characters were in unique relationships with each other – strangers locked in a room together for weeks. You could tell that Robinson worked hard to get the actors to continue to play to the newness of their relationships as they naturally built a better familiarity with the piece and the physical space onstage through the rehearsal process.

 

The writing

This play was written a few years ago and so is relatively new. This is the second time its been produced. It’s extremely timely in this current era when unjustified shootings of young Black men are an issue receiving a lot of visibility.

You can’t help but compare a jury play to 12 Angry Men but Kash Goin’s script holds its own. The dialogue is smart and fast, almost subduing the audience early on into thinking they could be watching a comedy, and then hitting the audience hard with questions and investigations as the story unfolds and the details of the case become more apparent. He writes believable characters with varying opinions who all can stand up against the criticism if each other.

It’s worth mentioning the twist at the end. We’re all left with our mouths open at the end. It’s very effective.

 

Accountability

This play handled representation and inclusion fairly well. The cast was diverse and the representation of their characters weren’t stereotypical – one of the three black characters is a Black male startup founder, which you don’t often see. The play is timely, and plays on unfortunately prevalent questions surround the unjust killings of Black people. It’s a play for anyone with an open mind on the issue, and I believe it is successful in making typical Arden audience members think about perspectives that run counter to their own.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s