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Olney Theatre Center Witness for the Prosecution

By • Oct 6th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie
Olney Theatre Center
Olney Mainstage, Olney, Md
Through October 23rd
3:00 with two intermissions
$26-$54
Reviewed October 2nd, 2011

Witness for the Prosecution is now playing at Olney Theatre Center. I, for one, will not waste your time with an expository of the story. I remember, in a different time, watching The Mousetrap in London and being asked not to give the story away to others who may not have seen the play yet. This holds true with Witness for the Prosecution. It should be sufficient enough to know that this is an Agatha Christie masterpiece. Full with twists and turns and surprises as this play is, Agatha Christie takes you down many paths.

I will tell you that Olney is and has been an Actors Equity Theatre and as such should be held to as high of a standard as any Actors Equity Theatre. The cast in this play is resplendent both in stature as well as in resume. In fact, most of the cast are members of this prestigious Union of Stage Actors. This being said, I couldn’t help but wonder where the life in this play was. Where was the suspense? Where was the air of tension? Where was the nervous laughter? Where were all these ingredients, usually found in this great Agatha Christie play? The answer may be in cutting the cast down to its bare minimum to accurately tell the story. Maybe it was in staging the accused so far stage left that it took him out of the story. Or maybe it was having the two courtroom combatants sitting side by side as if on the same team. Whatever it was I found the courtroom scenes void of life. Directed by John Going, this play is filled not with the drama or thrill, but rather with the air of the “Ho-Hum, What do we have here?” Maybe this murder trial is more common place in the mind of the director, but it seems to me the play does mention how this murder story made the front pages in the newspapers. Ok, they did capture the decorum of an English courtroom. The sets, designed by James Wolk are wonderful, even if the one made me feel like more of a library in an expansive English Country Home than a London flat. Or it could’ve been the expanse of space in the courtroom itself, or the stenographer who didn’t move at all save for her shiny silver pen which reflected beams of light into the audience’s eyes, seemingly able to write down all the transcripts from the courtroom on a few lines of the paper and never once moving her head. Maybe there was just no excitement from the performances, save for a few.

Andrea Cirie, playing the role of Romaine is fabulous. It took her first entrance for a spark to come onstage. She was engaging and charismatic from her first entrance to the end of the play. Bob Ari in the role of Sir Wilfred Robarts certainly has the talent required for the role and he’s very very talented, but I must say his (or the director’s) decisions to have him start off as the “Played Victim” without any transition from the position of the “Master Player” of the courts is baffling to me. This left Sir Robarts bereft throughout the play rather than having the ability to be caught in amazement once his character realized he (of all people) had been made a pawn. His adversary, Mr. Myers played by Alan Wade is very credible in his role. I questioned his apparent decisions on his character’s grunting. Yes, it’s called for in the play, but his grunt sounded more of an exasperation of frustration than a mannerism used by his character to gain attention.

Other notable performances come from Jeffries Thaiss as Leonard Vole, Paul Morella as Inspector Hearne, Jim Scopeletis as Mr. Justice Wainwright, Joe Palka as Dr. Wyatt and Monica Lijewski as Janet Mackenzie. Special performance was turned in by James Slaughter in the role of Mr. Mayhew. Very well done! It’s these performances that make this play worth sitting through. The set changes were absolutely the best. Maybe these changes with members in the courtroom scurrying about and showing life and purpose could have been carried throughout the scenes. It felt like once the first line was spoken, everyone else turned into manikins. The Lighting, designed by Dennis Paichy, was superb throughout the show. Costumes were very well done, but Mr. Robarts and Mr. Myers robes seemed to be too light and seemed to fly about with a mind of their own.

Photo Gallery

James Slaughter as Mr. Mayhaw, Jeffries Thaiss as Leonard Vole and Bob Ari as Sir Wilfrid Robarts Bob Ari as Sir Wilfrid Robarts, James Slaughter as Mr. Mayhaw and Jeffries Thaiss as Leonard Vole
James Slaughter as Mr. Mayhaw, Jeffries Thaiss as Leonard Vole and Bob Ari as Sir Wilfrid Robarts
Bob Ari as Sir Wilfrid Robarts, James Slaughter as Mr. Mayhaw and Jeffries Thaiss as Leonard Vole
James Slaughter as Mr. Mayhaw, Jeffries Thaiss as Leonard Vole and Greg Twomey as Warder James Slaughter as Mr. Mayhaw and Andrea Cirie as Romaine
James Slaughter as Mr. Mayhaw, Jeffries Thaiss as Leonard Vole and Greg Twomey as Warder
James Slaughter as Mr. Mayhaw and Andrea Cirie as Romaine
Bob Ari as Sir Wilfrid Robarts and Andrea Cirie as Romaine
Bob Ari as Sir Wilfrid Robarts and Andrea Cirie as Romaine

Photos by Stan Barouh

Cast

  • Greta: Carolyn Myers
  • Carter: R. Scott Williams
  • Mr. Mayhew: James Slaughter
  • Leonard Vole: Jeffries Thaiss
  • Sir Wilifrid Roberts: Bob Ari
  • Inspector Hearne: Paul Morella
  • Policeman: DC Cathro
  • Clerk of the Court: Alan Hoffman
  • Stenographer: Carolyn Myers
  • Mr. Justice Wainwright: Jim Scopeletis
  • Mr. Myers: Alan Wade
  • Barrister: Ron Sarro
  • Barrister: R. Scott Williams
  • Warder: Greg Twomey
  • Dr. Wyatt: Joe palka
  • Janet Mackenzie: Monica Lijewski
  • Mr. Clegg: Drew kopas
  • The Other Woman: Jenny Donovan

Crew

  • Scenic Designer: James Wolk
  • Costume Designer: Liz Covey
  • Lighting Designer: Dennis Parichy
  • Stage Manager: Josiane M. Lemieux
  • Wig Designer: Anne Nesmith
  • Dialect Coach: Nancy krebs
  • Sound designer: Jeffrey Dorfman
  • Producing Director: Brad Watkins
  • Technical Director: Eric knauss
  • Company Manager: MacKenzie Douglas
  • Costume Shop Manager: Jeanne Bland
  • Director: John Going

Disclaimer: Olney Theatre Center provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has been involved in theatre for over 40 years in the local Washington DC Metro area as well as NYC and London England. Mark has performed at the Dramatist Guild Theatre on Broadway, at The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre Off-Broadway. His credits include work in many local theatres as well: The Folger Theatre Group, Arena Stage, New Playwrights Theatre, 7th Street Players, The Keegan Theatre, The American Century Theatre, The Journeyman Theatre, ASTA Theatre, The Hayloft Dinner Theatre (Associate Producer), The Lazy Susan Theatre, Discovery Channels, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (Frankenstein) with Donald Sutherland. London, England credits include work at: The Duke of York Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre, The Questors Theatre, The British Embassy Players. Mark is a graduate of The Drama Studio, London, England. Mark is also a narrator of audio books for Gildan Audio: “True North”, by Bill George; “Never Give Up”, by Tedy Bruschi and “Five Minds for the Future”, by Howard Gardner among them. Mark currently teaches Advanced Acting at The Little Theatre of Alexandria and still performs locally in many theatres.

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