Thursday, February 2, 2017

            Agatha Christie (1890-1972) was an English crime novelist, short story writer, and playwright.  Guiness World Record lists her as the best-selling novelist of all time.   Many of her works have been adapted to film and television. 
Witness for the Prosecution is one of her plays that premiered at the Winter Garden Theatre in London on October 28, 1953, and in December, 1954, it opened at the Henry Miller Theatre in New York where it enjoyed a successful run.  In 1957 it was made into a film directed by Billy Wilder and starred Tyrone Power, Charles Laughton, and Marlene Dietrich.
            The Group Rep is presenting this extremely well-written play in a top-notch production at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood.  Because the play is regarding a crime, I am bound to review the play by simply telling you the plot, and why I highly recommend it, without revealing its ending.
            The play takes place in 20th Century London.  One day Leonard Vole (Patrick Skelton) gave aid to  a woman who turned out to be Emily French, a wealthy widow.  Because of his kindness, she invited him to her home.  Leonard visited Mrs. French often after that, and they became close in a friendly manner.  Unfortunately, when Mrs. French was found murdered in her home, Leonard was accused of the crime and put on trial based on circumstantial evidence.  Shortly before she was killed, Mrs. French had changed her will leaving Leonard the heir to her fortune.    
            Leonard insists that he is innocent, that he had no idea that Mrs. French had left him her fortune, and seeks the help of well-known lawyer, Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Larry Eisenberg),   He convinces Sir Wilfrid that he was nowhere near her place at the time of the murder, that his wife Romaine (Salome Jens) can vouch for him being at home at that time and that he was dumbfounded to hear that Mrs. French had changed her will in his favor.  Believing in his innocence, Sir Wilfrid agrees to defend him.
            The main action of the play takes place in the courtroom. where we are stunned (as well as is Sir Wilfrid) to discover that Romaine becomes a witness for the prosecution.  She relates a totally different story than Sir Wilfrid expected while he and Romaine battle it out.  But she is counting on a plan that she devised in hopes of getting her husband acquitted.
            You must see this play for the fact that it is superbly written with an ending that will be a big shocker, and because the cast is tops under well-known Director, Jules Aaron.  As a guest artist of the Group Rep, veteran Broadway actress Salome Jens, is calculating in her role as Romaine.  Talented Larry Eisenberg always gives a great performance, but as Sir Wilfrid, he is absolutely mesmerizing.  Patrick Skelton’s angst during the entire trial is very compelling. 
The rest of the strong cast includes Lloyd Pedersen (Justice Wainwright) Bruce Nehlsen (Inspector Hearne), Chris Winfield (Myers, prosecuting attorney), Roslyn Cohn, Sherry Michaels, Michele Schultz, Mikel Parraga-Wills, Todd Andrew Ball, and Nathalie Cadenas.  The impressive scenic design is by J. Kent Inasy, makeup, hair, and wig designs by Judi Lewin.
            Performances are presented Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through March 26, at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood.  Tickets are available at, or For further information, call (818) 763-5990.


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