There’s nothing worse for a play to be than mediocre. Luckily, Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Trial By Jury” is anything but, a fact that holds especially true with the current performance by the Eventide Theater Company.
If you haven’t heard of the Eventide Theater Company, you might not be alone; they consider themselves to be Dennis’ little secret, an unfortunate fact given the fantastic performances I witnessed on the second night of the aforementioned show. Currently performing out of a modest theater space in a Dennis church, Eventide is running “Trial By Jury” Thursdays through Sundays until May 13.
The production kicks off with a selection of songs from various other Gilbert and Sullivan plays, beginning with the hymnal “Brightly Dawns our Wedding Day” from “The Mikado,” and ending with “Yeoman of the Guard’s” “I Have a Song to Sing, O.” Each tune brought something new to the table, with the actors effortlessly flowing between each piece. No one song outshined the rest, but some notables I’d like to mention were definitely “When I Went Down to the Bar,” as sung by Charles Ferris, “A Policeman’s Lot” courtesy of James Batzer and the men, and “The Moon and I,” performed by Kristin Howard.
Ferris brought a certain joviality to his song, eliciting several laughs throughout, mixing his excellent voice with fun pantomimes to really sell the act. Batzer and the men did an equally impressive job with their song from “Pirates of Penzance,” with Batzer transitioning between an upstanding officer to a lowly crook with ease while the men echoed him back all the while. Howard, meanwhile, commanded the stage on several occasions. She was the lead on both “The Moon and I” and “I Cannot Tell What This Love May Be,” capturing the audience with her melodic yet powerful vocals any time she had the spotlight. Out of all the voices on stage, hers was truly a force to be reckoned with.
After concluding the excellent selection of songs, and the succeeding intermission, it was time to begin the titular performance of “Trial By Jury.” For those who are unfamiliar with this play, “Trial by Jury” is a one-act satire giving viewers a glimpse into the absurd court case between two clashing lovers. A comedy by nature, the play doesn’t take long to bring in the laughs. I don’t want to spoil the humor for those interested in attending a show, but to give a little hint – the show contains a few amusing nods to the current political climate, while still embracing the feel, ideals and dialogue of the original script. Eventide’s adaptation features the talent of James O’Neill as the defendant Edwin and Kristin Howard as the plaintiff Angelina. Also starring are Charles Ferris as the Judge, Stephen Stein as the Counsel to the plaintiff, James Batzer as the Usher, and the rest of the company rounding out the cast as the jury and chorus.
There is very little downtime involved in this play, both due to its one-act structure and the way everything flows together as a whole. The cast always seems to put their best foot forward, as it were, with every performance finding itself worthy of praise. Even when actors were left to the wayside for a scene, they were still worth keeping an eye on, from the laughable antics put on by O’Neill’s Edwin to the disinterested slumber of Ferris’ judge, among others.
Outside of their physical performance, the cast’s vocals were equally on-point, easily propelling the play along through each song and routine.
Besides the fantastic performances by the actors, another notable highlight of the play was that of its design work. The stage was always well lit, a compliment that’s worth paying considering how well done the set was. I have to give kudos to the combined efforts of Roland Thane and Evan Fairly for their work on designing the courthouse, from the plain yet sturdy jury area to the judge’s imposing box and its accompanying scales of justice, and the impressive mural that adorned the background of the whole stage.
The costuming by Judy Chelsey was a sight to see, giving each character an outfit all their own, though appropriately less so for the myriad of suit-wearing jurymen that made up half of the chorus. Prop work was done equally as much justice, especially where a certain newspaper is concerned, seen early on in the play.
When all is said and done, Eventide’s production of Trial by Jury is a show worth seeing. From its masterful performances by each of the cast members to the fantastic design that accompanies the play, there’s very little – if anything – to complain about. Gilbert and Sullivan are known for helming some classic plays, and the troupe at the Eventide Theater Company uphold this quality, delivering a host of excellent music and rounding out the night with a laugh-out-loud rendition of “Trial By Jury.” So if you’re somebody who loves the theater, or somebody who just wants to see some good comedy accented by some top-notch lyricism, this is the show for you.
“Trial By Jury”
At Eventide Theater Company
Through May 13, Thursday through Saturday, Sunday matinee
Information and reservations: 508-398-8588