MsTRIAL

Bernini's Ratto di Proserpina illustrates Dep Kirkland's MsTRIAL at New World Stages. Image based on original photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash.
Is the law on your side?

By Andrew Andrews

Expert litigator John Paris has taken on two junior attorneys to form a team: his young nephew Dan with no courtroom experience, and bombshell Karen, who knows how to use her assets to distract the opposition and secure the admiration of a jury.

At a celebratory party after winning a tough case, tequila shots and vodka lead to group debauchery before Karen finds herself alone with John in the office, where he convinces her to reluctantly kiss him.

The next day, we learn that Karen’s had John arrested on rape charges, and Dan’s stuck in the middle, having accepted responsibility for defending his uncle.

After the first act, I was ready to give this production a meager two stars. On a set designed with the worst lines of sight I’ve ever encountered in live theatre, lead actor Dep Kirkland speeds through his lines like he’s afraid he’ll forget them, which is ironic because Kirkland is also the playwright of the story.

Just as Bernie Taupin writes songs for Elton John to sing, this might be a better production if a different actor was allowed to interpret Kirkland’s lines.

Although there really shouldn’t be a bad seat at New World Stages’ Stage 5, a large desk at the front of the set blocks the view of much of the action, as if the scenic designer forgot there would be an audience for the performance. Between scenes, the office furniture is moved around for no apparent reason, replacing the obtrusive desk with an even larger sofa in the second scene.

Fortunately, the tables are turned more figuratively in the second act, when a fact-finding session paints the situation as more complicated than it seemed at first, and both the script and the performance step up a few notches in quality, finishing on a high note.

This isn’t the first play we’ve seen with a “no means no” story line, but here the theme is applied to characters who understand all-too-well the lines that must be drawn across the nuances of right and wrong.

If the first half of the play was as good as the second, I’d give it four stars. If you can score deeply-discounted tickets—which might ironically come with a better view if you’re seated far back from the stage—and you’re willing to sit patiently through the fumbling before intermission, I promise that Act II will be worth the wait.

Reviewing the production as a whole, this is really an Off-Off-Broadway presentation that requires significant fine-tuning to be worthy of its Off-Broadway venue and correspondingly higher prices.

3

Andrew Andrews attended MsTRIAL at New World Stages Stage 5 in New York on Sunday, November 17, 2019 @ 1:00pm to write this review.