CKP's 'A Softening of Her Eyes' a riveting courtroom drama
Published on Monday, 11 June 2018 17:45
Written by Kathy Lauer-Williams
Crowded Kitchen Players production of the original play “A Softening of Her Eyes” is as absorbing as it is challenging and thought-provoking.
The play written by CK Players’ director Ara Barlieb is fascinating, and structured in such a way that despite clocking in at 2 hours and 40 minutes, the time seemed to fly by.
The play being presented through June 17 in Bethlehem’s Ice House, takes place simultaneously in a courtroom where Emmanuel Morris is being tried for assault and rape; and in a radio station broadcast studio where Morris, who has escaped police custody, asks to be able to tell his side of the story on a talk radio show. The sets are side by side, and the action moves back and forth through out the show.
For the most part this is effective although it does give the impression that both scenes are taking place at the same time.
Will Alexander Jr. does a masterful job portraying Emmanuel.Will and Trish 1
Even though the audience is well aware the character has been charged with violent crimes, Alexander make him so charming and engaging, it is easy to empathize with him, which makes it understandable why the other characters act the way they do.
It is a mesmerizing performance.
Since Alexander is black and his accuser is white, it seems at first that that is the central issue, but things get much more complicated and take a different turn as the story slowly unfolds.
One of the most effective uses of the two-sided set occurs in the second act, when psychological expert Dr. Winkle, played by Ryan MacNamara, clinically testifies about the causes and effects of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in the courtroom, while in the radio station Emmanuel emotionally recounts a graphic and horrific episode from his experience in combat during the Iraq War.
The juxtaposition of the two scenes is jarring and ultimately devastating.
Trish Cipoletti is well cast as the radio host Leslie Grant who is professional and practical but finds herself unexpectedly drawn in by Emmanuel’s story. Pam Wallace adds an earthy touch as the world-weary actress Lola Lupino who is a guest on the radio show and also falls under Emmanuel’s spell. Brian Wendt is insistent though flighty as the producer David Lester who thoughtlessly sees ratings gold in Emmanuel’s request.
In the courtroom, Dan Ferry is outstanding at the beleaguered public defender who really pulls out all the stops trying to defend his client even though he thinks he’s guilty.
David “Oz” Oswald also gives a solid performance as the tenacious and confident district attorney. Tom Harrison adds a wry note to the harried judge.
The string of witnesses called to the stand all do an admirable job, particularly Florence Taylor’s emotionally charged portrayal of Emmanuel’s estranged and confused wife.
The focus shifts somewhat throughout the play, but in the end it makes for riveting theater, with a twist at the end that will leave audiences shocked.
“A Softening of Her Eyes,” 8 p.m. June 15-16; 2 p.m. June 17; Ice House, 56 River St., Bethlehem.
Tickets: $18, adults; $14, seniors; $10, students. Info: www.ckplayers.com; 610-395-7176.