Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Witness for the Prosecution
Also see Mark's reviews of Fire on the Water, Once and Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood
In Witness for the Prosecution, now playing at Great Lakes Theater, Leonard Vole (Taha Mandviwala) is on the brink of being accused of murdering Emily French, a wealthy spinster whom Leonard had met and befriended. He enlists the aid of Defense Attorney Mayhew (Lynn Robert Berg) and Sir Wilfrid Robarts, Q.C. (Aled Davies). During their initial interview,, Mayhew and Robarts along with their secretary Greta (Laura Welsh Berg) come to believe in Vole's innocence.
The four are up against the prosecuting attorney, Mr. Myers Q.C. (Nick Steen), Vole's illicit wife Romaine (Jodi Dominic), and the housekeeper of the deceased, Janet MacKenzie (Jillian Kates), as they appear in the court of Justice Wainwright (David Anthony Smith) and a jury of twelve (picked from the audience). The fate of this seemingly innocent young man hangs on the testimony of his wife, which the defense quickly finds cannot be trusted. There is also damaging evidence from the housekeeper as well as hard to explain physical evidence.
Who killed Emily French? Was it her new male companion, Vole, who stands to inherit the entire £85,000 estate? Was it Janet MacKenzie, the revenge-seeking housekeeper who was recently written out of the will? Perhaps it could even be Romaine Vole? You will need to stay for the entire two hours plus to find out.
As for the production, special mention must be made of the elaborate stage set by Gage Williams. It is an accurate representation of an expansive English courtroom complete with large royal seal, jury boxes, witness stand, tables for the defense and prosecution, and high judge's seat to oversee the proceedings. The set is easily and quickly changed over to the defense attorney's office as well as a foggy street scene.
Laura Welsh Berg takes the tiny role of the defense attorney's secretary Greta and expands it with sheer talent. Her typically English trotting walk is a joy to watch. M.A. Taylor does a wondrous job as Carter (Robert's right-hand man and gofer) as well as Dr. Wyatt. Lynn Robert Berg as Mr. Mayhew brings the right balance of disbelief that is necessary to propel the story. Taha Mandviwala is perfect as downtrodden Leonard Vole, who stands accused. Aled Davies brings amazing energy to the role of the bombastic defense attorney Sir Wilfred Robarts, Q.C. who will not be denied justice. And there are three people you love to hate; Jodi Dominick as Romaine, Jillian Kates as Janet MacKenzie, and Nick Steen as Mr. Myers Q.C. Stealing the show with wondrous quips is David Anthony Smith as Judge Justice Wainwright who brings comic relief during the court proceedings.
The hardest role an American actor can take is one that involves a British accent. Great Lakes Theater has done the nearly impossible by outfitting their actors with believable speech patterns that truly add to the story. This is a colossal show; if you are among the few who have never witnessed Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution in any form, you are in for a huge treat of suspense, drama, and even comedy. The court is now in session ... you be the judge.
Witness for the Prosecution, through March 10, 2019, at Great Lakes Theater, Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square, 2067 E. 14th Street, Cleveland OH. tickets may be purchased online at www.greatlakestheater.org, by phone at 216-241-6000, or by stopping by the Playhouse Square ticket office located in the outer lobby of the State Theatre.