Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Judgment at Nuremberg
Following World War II, the Allies conducted trials against Nazi leaders in the German city of Nuremberg. The play concerns a subsequent tribunal that charged four Nazi-era judges with crimes against humanity for their perversions of the judicial process. These trials brought up many ethical issues still being discussed, including the question of how they differ from "show trials" with predetermined verdicts; whether they provide a legal excuse for the victors in a war to further punish and humiliate the losers; andmost germane herewhether they intrude on another country's legal system by determining that obeying an unjust law is itself illegal. (Jack Marshall, artistic director of American Century Theater, is a legal ethicist by profession who has organized pre- and post-show discussions addressing these topics.)
Director Joe Banno keeps the human drama in the forefront, never allowing the arguments to become legal abstractions. It's about Judge Haywood (Craig Miller), a civilian jurist with no experience in international law; Colonel Lawson (Bruce Alan Rauscher), the feverishly determined prosecutor; Ernst Janning (Michael Replogle), the most esteemed of the four defendants; and Oscar Rolfe (Steve Lebens), the defense attorney prepared to do what he must to ensure that his clients receive a fair trial. Ron Sarro, Karin Rosnizeck, Christopher Henley, and Mary Beth Luckenbaugh shine in smaller roles.
Banno has added another layer to the drama: silent "ghost" figures of the Jewish defendants and Nazi soldiers who earlier dealt with the judges now facing their own judgment in the same courtroom. While this device may sound precious or overly sentimental, it is used judiciously and never overshadows the action of the play.
Patrick Lord has designed a straightforward courtroom set, with audience seating on two facing sides, and the atmospheric projections that add specificity to individual moments. Marc Allan Wright's lighting design ties the scenes together with cinematic dissolves from one part of the stage to another.
American Century Theater