Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Chantilly High School The Andersonville Trial

By • May 6th, 2008 • Category: Cappies

Thousands of Union soldiers mistreated in horrific conditions led to one man and the resonating question, “Why did you obey?” This was the high drama of Chantilly High School’s production of The Andersonville Trial.

This play is based on the 1865 trial of Captain Henry Wirz (Eddie Monk) who is being held responsible for the many prisoners of war who suffered inhumane treatment by Colonel Chipman (Clare Bonner). Defending him is Linda Baker (Jennifer Isakowitz), a quick-witted Defense Attorney. As the trial goes on, Chipman realizes that there is more to the case than hard evidence; it is a matter of personal morals versus obedience to military superiors. This issue gradually becomes more central to the questioning, culminating in Wirz putting himself on the stand to prove his humanity. This theme also comes into focus through Chantilly’s choice to present part of the cast in Civil War style and the other part in modern costumes.

Chantilly High School’s cast, though small, proved quite capable of taking on this heavy drama. Every actor on stage, from the Court Clerk to the Judge Advocate, remained in character, achieving a consistently believable courtroom atmosphere. Their movements were specific yet natural, each character revealing their own unique mannerisms. All speaking roles maintained excellent pacing and never allowed scenes to lag. These accomplishments kept the acting tight and environment clear.

Watching Clare Bonner and Jennifer Isakowitz spar for the upper hand in the courtroom became increasingly interesting as the plot progressed. These two actresses kept the competition fierce with their sharp delivery and the witness-questioner dynamic was equally captivating for both. Michael Poandl controlled their clashing of wits with great authority as the President of the Court. However, even Poandl’s power seemed forgotten when Captain Wirz (Eddie Monk) testified at the climax of the case. Monk’s performance brought enchanting complexity to the issues of the play and was never hindered by his flawless accent.

Every witness of The Andersonville Trial, regardless of their respective time periods, added to the intensity of the case. One particularly memorable performance was James Davidson (Chris Albrigo), a shell-shocked survivor of the war camp. His chilling recollections of Andersonville were punctuated by nervous tics that caught the audience’s attention without being overdone.

This exceptional production went beyond the acting, however. Both the lighting and set brought The Andersonville Trial to a new level of strength. The blood-red glow behind the panel of judges and dramatic fading when the verdict was announced enhanced the show beautifully. The set was well-built, interesting and portrayed both the ideas and realities of the production.

The heavy issues and high tension of this courtroom drama could not have been served better justice from Chantilly High School. Through the deepest of monologues the show never lost momentum.

by Olivia Leontine May of Madeira

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