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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Witness for the Prosecution

Witness for the Prosecution
Bob Ari and Andrea Cirie
Witness for the Prosecution may be the best constructed of Agatha Christie's courtroom dramas because of the duel of wits between the prominent barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Bob Ari) and Romaine (Andrea Cirie), the enigmatic wife of murder defendant Leonard Vole (Jeffries Thaiss). At Olney Theatre Center in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, director John Going has staged a solid—if occasionally stolid—production of the thriller. (The play is in three acts, with two intermissions.)

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
Witness for the Prosecution
September 28th - October 23rd
By Agatha Christie
Greta: Carolyn Myers
Carter: R. Scott Williams
Mr. Mayhew: James Slaughter
Leonard Vole: Jeffries Thaiss
Sir Wilfrid Robarts: Bob Ari
Inspector Hearne: Paul Morella
Policeman: DC Cathro
Romaine: Andrea Cirie
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 Lejewski
Mr. Clegg: Drew Kopas
The Other Woman: Jenny Donovan
Directed by John Going
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD
Ticket Information: 301-924-3400 or www.olneytheatre.org


Photo: Stan Barouh



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