|Lon S. Lewi, Jack Kennedy, Robie Winston, Joe Colligan, Ian Patrick Williams (seated), Mark Belnick, Greg Allan Martin, Gary Clemmer, Jan-David Soutar, and Edmond Wyson|
(Click on photo for full view)
The tiny Grove Theatre venue in Burbank Park may be a diamond in the rough. It’s a simple proscenium house.
Fourteen thousand Union prisoners of war died at Andersonville Prison Camp in Georgia under the command of Confederate Captain Wirz, now on trial for conspiracy to commit murder. The horrors of this travesty are discussed in legal and then in moral terms in Levitt’s play, The Andersonville Trial.
It’s difficult to discuss the success of a production when the production is not firing on all cylinders. Director Gary Lee Reed’s simple 1860s courtroom set is tended by Court Clerk Lon S. Lewi as the audience enters. The thankless job of this character who tidies up the courtroom is one to be applauded. Lewi is always present and listening. We meet the principals and the trial begins. Subtle differences and some not so subtle bring the text to life but nod off at frequent intervals. The essence of the trial is whether or not Captain Wirz (Ian Patrick Williams) Commandant of Andersonville, is guilty of conspiracy to commit murder while overseeing the notorious Confederate prison. The Fourteen thousand Union prisoners died basically from extreme neglect. Wirz, a naturalized Swiss-American, in the final scene insists to testify on his own behalf. The question comes down to the moral law of humanity versus military law and the responsibility of military command.
Levitt’s excellent exploration of this issue is delivered on a variety of different emotional and physical levels by the ten members of the cast. Least effective of the lot is the pivotal character, Judge Advocate Colonel Chipman, played with difficulty by Mark Belnick. Vocal issues and his leaden physical interpretation of his character made his advocacy for the prosecution difficult to believe.
The up side of this production is the dedication of the rest of the cast to the importance of the issue of exposing this chapter in American History where the inhumanity of human beings under the color of authority is brought to light.
The opportunity for a truly powerful statement must fall to director Gary Lee Reed whose task at hand is to elevate the entire cast to the level of Mr. Lewi who sets the tone for the entire proceeding.
The Andersonville Trial by Saul Levitt
Grove Theatre Center
1111-B West Olive Avenue
Burbank, CA 91506
Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM
Sundays at 3PM
Through April 10, 2016
Tickets and Information:
Reservations: (323) 960-7738