Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Nuts"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2002 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Mockingbird Theater, in collaboration with The Newport Repertory Theater, presents "Nuts", a courtroom melodrama. The show is a series of vignettes about Claudia Faith Draper who has been arrested for manslaughter and is being held in NY's Bellevue Hospital. The State wants to declare her mentally incompetent to stand trial but Claudia fights the charges and with the help of her court appointed attorney, fights the system. First time director, Wendy Carol who also appears as Claudia, takes this show with her fellow 8 cast members and infuses it with some very intense dramatic moments which will have you rooting for Claudia victory.

Wendy gives a tour de force performance as Claudia, who is at first, an unlikable woman, but using her talent she sways the audience to root for her by the close of the show. She is an excellent actress who portrays the inner torment of this woman. Claudia's punching out her first lawyer, her breaking down during her stepfather's testimony and her reconciliation with her mother are stand out scenes for Wendy. Although there are some rousing scenes in the show, it needs a faster pace to sustain it during the many scene changes as well as during the talky scenes, too. Also louder projection from all the cast members, so they are all speaking at the same volume, will help it reach its full potential.

Veteran performer, John Brennan plays the defense attorney, Aaron Levinsky beautifully. He grow to like this aggressive woman and helps her to overcome the obstacles placed in her pathway. John usually plays comic roles but in this show he stretches his acting muscles to show he can handle a dramatic role, too. His adversary, Francis MacMillian, is played by Brad Dakers. Brad makes his debut in this role and he does a great job with his massive dialogue. The highlight of his part occurs when he forces Claudia to explain her business practices since her divorce. (Explicit testimony about prostitute wages follows.) Brad is at ease on stage and should continue pursuing future theatrical roles. Scott Shekerow plays the exasperated, Judge Murdock who must decide Claudia's fate. Scott handles this authority figure very well and he tries to keep things going smoothly in his courtroom. The villian of this piece is the conceited all knowing shrink, Dr. Morrison, played by Kelly William! son. Although you think the doctor knows best, that isn't true in this show. The shrink's ego outweighes his fairness to Claudia and he believes she must be sedated at all times. Kelly plays this narrow minded man who can't believe a white, middle class, woman can be a prostitute. He displays the right amount of venom to make the audience see that he really doesn't care about his patient at all.

Another veteran performer is Ellen Morris who plays Claudia's mother, Rose Kirk. You see her as a dour, severe woman, sitting in the courtroom but you learn throughout the proceedings that she really cares about her daughter. Ellen plays this older woman wonderfully and when Claudia finally hugs her, it brings the audience to tears. Lou Longo plays Harry, the cop, in his first theatrical performance and he handles the role like a pro. He projects his lines clearly and stays in character during the proceedings. Rounding out this cast are John Parkinson as the kindly but devious stepfather, Arthur Kirk, Mario Neves as Claudia's first lawyer, Mr. Mittleton and last but not least, Loretta Frerickson as Johnson, Claudia's fellow inmate who tries to fool Levinsky into thinking she is a psychiatrist. (Although she is onstage for a short time, Loretta is a hoot in this role.)

So for an insightful look into courtroom proceedings with some heavy and funny twists along the way be sure to catch, "Nuts" in Newport.

"Nuts" (till 25 May)
Newport Congregational Church, Spring & Pelham Street, NEWPORT, RI
1 (401) 847-8412

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide