While well acted, "Monkey Trial" fell between two stools. At its home base, LA TheatreWorks productions are stripped down to just actors, mics, chairs and a sound-effects artist and part of the pleasure is seeing and hearing the actors in this minimalist format.
Here, the semi-staged courtroom, with mics pointing every which way, felt cluttered. The foley artist had little to do and was hidden in the back and there was less of a radio show feel and more of a mid-way-through-rehearsals vibe. An audience member would be justified in wondering why they didn't just memorize the script and go off book.
The script itself was smart and insightful. Taken from the actual transcripts of the Scopes trial and its surrounding documents, the piece was particularly interesting to those very familiar with the fictionalized take on the story in "Inherit the Wind." The closing moments of the first act were particularly compelling. Still, I'm wondering if the broadcast of the show on WFYI was actually more impactful.
I'm hoping LATW pays a return visit in any form--solid actors with good material are always welcome. But "Monkey Trial" didn't represent the company at its best.
(FYI: I had the pleasure of hosting a Q&A session with the acting company after the show. Kudos to the Indy audience for not asking Ed Asner to say his signature Lou Grant line "I hate spunk.")
More on the Durang one-acts later--either here or in the print edition of IBJ. (If you are just joining us, you can find past reviews, the latest IBJ Daily A&E preview e-mail, and more at www.ibj.com/arts.)
So what did you get to this weekend?