The latest play by Ron Milner, author of the Broadway shows Checkmates and Don't Get God Started, is a big change of pace. Defending the Light, adapted by Milner from Earl Conrad's novel, "Seward for the Defense," tells of the 1846 trial of a black man who stabbed a white family to death.
The trial did, indeed, occur, with William H. Seward defending William Freeman, and John Van Buren serving as prosecutor. Seward would become Secretary of State under President Lincoln; Van Buren was the son of President Martin Van Buren.
Directed by Jay Broad (Red White and Maddox), Defending the Light premiered at the Tribeca Center for the Performing Arts, Feb. 6 (previews began Feb. 3). The show ends its run March 5.
Featured as Seward and Van Buren are James Kiberd and Ned Coulter, with Max Chalawsky, Bridgit Antoinette Evans, Lex Monson, Ramon Moses, Victoria G. Platt, Bob Sonderskov, Cullen Wheeler and Kathleen Turco-Lyon co-starring. Designing the show are Robert Joel Schwartz (set), David Segal (lighting) and Michael Stein (costumes).
For tickets ($25) and information on Defending the Light at the Tribeca Center, 199 Chambers St., call (212) 346-8500. -- By David Lefkowitz