A judge struggles to untangle a complicated case that raises issues of public image and private ethics in "The Sentence."
By JOSHUA TANZER
Coincidentally, the day before seeing "The Sentence," I was talking with a former judge about his long legal career, and he said that the biggest drawback of the judicial job was not being able to discuss your work with anybody, even those closest to you.
Judge Walter apparently doesn't follow this rule. Everybody his family, friends, political mentor and the local paper wants to tell him how to rule in his current, highly public case, the sentencing of a politician convicted of accepting a bribe. A majority of the public demands that the crooked pol be sent to jail and taught a lesson. The judge's wife feels the same way, and so, incidentally, does his mistress. So why is this case bothering the judge so much?
Well, for one thing, the judge used to be mayor thanks to his old friend "Charlie," the political boss who now wants him to let the fallen city councilman off with a warning and he's all too aware that politics runs on fund-raising and favors. Does everybody do it? Walter isn't quite sure where the line between a favor and a bribe really is. Outside of public service, a gift is an expression of friendship or at least a way of cementing a relationship. Perfectly acceptable. Not so, for those of us who are held to a different standard of ethics. In fact, Walter's own record may not be spotless, as his Vietnam-addled son keeps inconveniently reminding him.
|Written by: Alex Menza.|
Directed by: Robert Kreis.
Cast: Michael Boland, Martha Fletcher, Robb Patterson, David Long, Jeff Beech, Sarah Spinner (cast 1); Michael Whitney, Karla Chandler, Bryen Leuthy, Joe Calvo, Rudy Crichlow, Nancy Nagrant (cast 2).
The play compentently explores this philosophical dilemma, and yet it seems a bit bloodless. Every time the subject of sentencing the pol comes up, which is constantly, the judge insists that he hasn't made a decision, so we never see his thought process at work. The show tries a few effective tricks, like providing the story background in monologues that the characters present to the audience as if telling the judge what they really think of him but don't dare say. Although it is always in danger of turning into a dry philosophical treatise, the play does raise some provocative questions about the standards we hold ourselves and others to.
|MAY 16, 2000|
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