Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Witness for the Prosecution
The year is 1952. Vole is a good-looking, feckless man on trial for the murder of an older, wealthy woman who had befriended him. His alibi relies on the testimony of Romaine, a German woman whom he married soon after World War II and brought home to England. As far as Sir Wilfrid and his co-counsel Mr. Mayhew (James Slaughter) are concerned, Leonard is innocent, in over his head, and Romaine is calculating and manipulative. But the plot twists start coming early on and don't end until after the verdict is pronounced.
Ari has a sly way with a line, a sharp sidelong glance, and a commanding, substantial physical presence. He dominates his interactions with the judge (reserved Jim Scopeletis) and the prosecutor (effete, delicately harrumphing Alan Wade) and modulates his overbearing side to deal with Vole, played by Thaiss as a fellow who's been able to coast on his looks rather than his abilities. The other standout performer is Cirie, whose Romaine can be frustratingly opaque at times and surprisingly vulnerable at others. Her scenes with Ari crackle with intelligence and intensity.
On the downside, Carolyn Myers is actively annoying as Sir Wilfrid's secretary, and R. Scott Williams' stodgy office manager never transcends his role as an expository device.
James Wolk's scenic design incorporates two detailed settings, Sir Wilfrid's chambers and a courtroom in London's Old Bailey, and the shift between the two provides the visual effect of a cinematic dissolve.
Olney Theatre Center