Of the play, Voir Dire, Long Wharf Theatre's outgoing artistic director Arvin Brown said, "[It's] a searing, committed portrait of a jury in the 90's. The characters are strong, and the puzzle which confronts them very intriguing indeed . . . [It's] a wonderfully crafted play which addresses itself to a burning topical issue."
Now Connecticut theatregoers get the chance to see for themselves: Voir Dire opens at the Long Wharf in New Haven, tonight, June 11. The show began previews June 3 and runs to July 6, replacing The God Of Vengeance, Donald Margulies' adaptation of a Yiddish classic. Gordon Edelstein, who was to direct God, will stage Joe Sutton's drama, which is a co-production with Washington D.C.'s Arena Stage. (Arena Stage staged Voir Dire in April.)
Featured in the Long Wharf cast are Vanessa Aspillaga, Steve Cell, Karen Kandell, Pamela Payton-Wright, Robin Weigert, Richard Bean and Zoe Zito. Designing Dire are Andrew Wood Boughton (set), Paul Tazewell (costumes), Allen Lee Hughes (lighting), Timothy Thompson (sound).
The legal term "voir dire" comes from the Old French "to speak the truth" and refers to a preliminary examination to determine a witness' or juror's competency. In the play, which was written pre-O.J. In 1992, a prominent black man is on trial for drug possession. Is it an open-and-shut case -- or was the client framed by a racist police department?
Production spokesperson Kimberly Sewright told Playbill On-Line that although most people hear about Voir Dire and immediately think of O.J., for her the connection is much closer to Marion Barry, the Washington DC mayor busted for cocaine use. "The play really tries to answer questions we all have about the justice system," Sewright said. "How can you be sure who is on a jury of `peers?' Also, blacks and whites have a very different view of the justice system." As for the postponement of Vengeance, Edelstein said, "Donald Margulies is a major American writer, and his adaptation of the Yiddish classic will undoubtedly be seminal. We look forward to producing it at Long Wharf very soon." Spokesperson Sewright told Playbill On-Line the God postponement was mutual between the theatre and the playwright.
For tickets and information on Voir Dire at the Long Wharf in New Haven, CT, June 3-July 6, call (203) 787-4282.
--By David Lefkowitz