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Wednesday, 19 May 2010 22:20

Surprising testimony from Theatre Guild's Witness for the Prosecution

Written by Roy Kasten
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Surprising testimony from Theatre Guild's Witness for the Prosecution
Theatre Guild of Webster Groves

Years after her death, Agatha Christie's stories and plays continue to draw legions of loyal fans. Her is appeal is very understandable when you see a play like Witness for the Prosecution, currently in production at the Theatre Guild of Webster Groves. Normally, Christie's works are a bit tongue-in-cheek 

even though they deal with the serious topic of homicide. Witness, however, is long but spellbinding, and the drama is non-stop, right down to the multiple surprises at the end.

This is not an easy play for the actors; the staging is sparse, leaving the audience to cling to fast-paced dialogue to hold their attention. Each actor must be quick-witted and aware of the numerous cues they must follow. In general, the rather large cast, directed by Debbie Love, was able to maintain the pacing and tension, with just a few misfires.

After only a few minutes into the show, it is readily apparent that the cast and crew of this production are hardworking and reliable. However, attention to a few possible changes might showcase their talents even more. For one, although the show is set in 1959 London, there is a mixture of accents onstage. Although it is not necessary for each actor to have a perfect British accent, a little more cultural uniformity would have rendered the action more believable. Richard Hunsaker, in the role of prosecutor, gives a convincing portrayal of an English gentleman, but more back-up from his colleagues would have been helpful. Robert Beck, in the role of solicitor for the accused, also turns in a convincing depiction, even with a more Americanized accent and the challenge of confusing lines and entrances. In general, the actors' diction was clear and even, but here and there fell short of clarity.

Since the plot of Witness relies very little on scenery, except for the necessary courtroom, a well-planned and decorated set might have provided an interesting backdrop to the highly cerebral dialogue. Nothing was lacking on the set, but there was little to feed the senses.

Like all great plays, Witness for the Prosecution can stand on its own in any productions. It is an exciting play, full of surprises and questions. The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves serves it all up for you, and Agatha Christie never fails to deliver.

The play continues through May 8 at the Guild Playhouse. For more information, you may call 314-962-0876.


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