In Romulus Linney's latest play, Mock Trial, law students mix a famous trial of the past with a "not-too-imaginary one of the future," leading to a shocking conclusion and "a chilling allegory of the body politic."
Linney will direct it at NY's Theatre For The City, opening Jan. 18.
A glib roadside tramp who instigated an armed rebellion in Helena may deserve open-and-shut conviction, but, allowed to examine witnesses personally, he dazzles the courtroom with his strategy and brilliance. He transforms the trial from an easy prosecution into a balancing act "between what civic justice demands and what a disunified, dishonored, disgraced public will accept."
Appearing in Mock Trial are Chris Capiello, John Martin Green, David Johnson, Anthony Pick, Christopher Roberts, Heather Robinson and Nancy Simmons. Marc Marcante is the set designer.
Linney's 30-plus plays include The Sorrows Of Frederick, Holy Ghosts, The Love Suicide At Schofield Barracks, Spain, April Snow< Three Poets, Childe Byron and 2. His first production at Theatre For The New City was 1978's Just Folks. Linney's adaptation and direction of his 1962 novel, "Heathen Valley," won the National Critics Award and was selected for the 1987-88 edition of "Best Plays." Linney told Playbill On-Line the idea of a mock trial intrigued him because he teaches at Columbia Law School and studied at Yale, and he's sat in on mock trials at both. "I felt I could use the idea as a metaphor for something larger. It's based on a historical trial, but you won't recognize it until about half-way through."
Asked what the play tries to get across, Linney said, "I don't think that you SAY anything with a play, that can be dangerous. I think it reflects a state of mind." Linney also confirms that his plays generally fall into three genres, historical and history-based works, plays based on life in Appalachia (the author grew up in Western North Carolina), and more personal plays.
Linney's plans after Mock Trial. "Like any playwright I have a lot of pieces in various stages. The main thing is to keep working."
For tickets ($12) and information on Mock Trial, which runs Jan. 16 Feb. 9 at Theatre For The New City on First Ave., call (212) 254-1109.
--By David Lefkowitz