"Reasonable Doubt" is a challenging trial drama without a courtroom and erotic drama without a bedroom.
By ELIZABETH BACHNER
There’s a lot about going to the theater that’s a bit like being on a jury. There’s the aspect of voyeurism, for one thing, and the process of trying to figure out whether you can trust the characters, and whether what they’re saying is true. Watching some plays is like being trapped in interminable deliberations, while others, like the Sydney-based Tamarama Rock Surfers Theatre Company’s fine production of "Reasonable Doubt," offer the riveting drama of real-life murder cases.
Anna (Jeanette Cronin) and Mitchell (Nick Flint) are two jurors who are meeting, two years after the trial, for a secret tryst in a luxury hotel room. He’s a man with big aspirations who found success in the city and married the woman everybody wanted. She’s a suburban housewife with dreams of travel and opening up a beauty salon. In the first moments of the play, she seems like a bit of a good-time-girl floozy, all dressed up and gulping her champagne, while he seems buttoned-up, determined, and ready to bed her. At each moment of this fast-paced drama, we (the audience) learn more truths about Anna and Mitchell, the jury they served on and the secrets that each keeps about their relationship. Anna and Mitchell also learn about each other’s secrets and lies.|
Every time we think we know “the truth” about what we’re seeing onstage, "Reasonable Doubt" throws us a new curveball. Yet, at the same time, the characters become more endearing, profound and, surprisingly, honest as the action unfolds. Both actors reveal deeper and truer aspects of their characters throughout the play, but Cronin, in particular, delivers a stealth performance, showing how Anna is much more of a heavyweight than she seems to be at first glance.
One thing that’s woefully missing from most theater (and even movies and TV shows) is the effective build-up of genuine sexual tension. In "Reasonable Doubt," not only do the actors have great chemistry, but Suzie Miller’s script is a masterwork of erotic uncertainty. When the characters finally resolve their thwarted love and desire however ambiguous that resolution is it’s thrilling.
"Reasonable Doubt" meaningfully explores the ways that moment-by-moment decisions, based on what we believe to be the truth, irrevocably transform not only our own lives, but the lives of those around us. Anna and Mitchell’s choices have important consequences.
Suzie Miller is a civil-rights lawyer as well as a playwright. It’s interesting that she keeps the courtroom entirely out of this great courtroom drama. Another thing missing from the scene is the bed Anna and Mitchell seem to be in the sitting-room part of a suite, with only a couple of chairs and a table to make up the spare set. Director Lee Lewis never makes the mistake of over-complicating this production. She lets the terrific script, onstage chemistry and tight performances tell the story.
"Reasonable Doubt" is that rare play that’s a think piece, but also titillating. It successfully proves, for me at least, how quick we are to determine the truth based on insufficient evidence. The play gets more and more brilliant as it races toward its maddening, thought-provoking conclusion.
|AUGUST 25, 2008|
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