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Execution of Justice
1978 the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk triggered an explosive reaction in a city already plagued by sociopolitical turmoil. Almost more shocking than the brutal murders, however, was the highly publicized trial that followed. Using the infamous "Twinkie defense," assassin Dan White--a conservative former supervisor and police officer--claimed diminished capacity as his excuse for the murders. But the prosecution, along with friends of the liberal Moscone and openly gay Milk, sought to prove a more political motive. In the end, the voluntary manslaughter verdict sparked an outcry throughout the city--a reaction that still resounds with powerful emotion in this multimedia dramatization of the courtroom events. Piecing together the court transcripts, news footage, and interviews, writer Emily Mann recreates with painstaking detail the tension and furor stemming from White's controversial trial. Although at times dry and slow, the play nevertheless paints a vivid picture of White's anguish and the numbed shock of the community. Ultimately, Mann forces us to delve beyond politics into the darker pressures that can cloud human judgment. Featuring an assembly of skilled performers--most of whom play multiple roles--this production offers a thought-provoking revival of Mann's play. Under Sharyn Case's steady direction, the staging takes on a deliberate pace that effectively underscores the trial's building suspense. Case's spare, all-black set design further emphasizes the drama unfolding onstage. And although the two video monitors that broadcast news footage and other information are rather unimposing, they still serve as an interesting visual tool. The cast offers a host of mostly solid performances, portraying the play's more than 40 characters, who include White, his defense lawyer, the prosecutor, and a parade of policemen, city officials, citizens, and other individuals affiliated with the victims. As White, Mark Craig starts out a bit uneven but eventually delivers a poignant portrayal of a man tortured by his horrible choices. Although sympathy lies squarely with the victims, Craig's realistic depiction of White's wretchedness is moving, especially during White's tearfully fervent confession to police. Of the supporting players, most are convincing and passionate in their performances. Vincent Campbell plays defense attorney Douglas Schmidt, offering an unflappable attitude and a degree of confidence that suit Schmidt's composed demeanor. David Colley and Mattias Rundgren are likewise deft at conveying the personalities of their characters. Rundgren is especially effective as a psychiatrist put on the stand by Schmidt; with a laughably matter-of-fact tone, he pedantically explains the Twinkie rationalization--and in doing so highlights the unfortunate absurdity that is sometimes inherent in our often flawed legal syste
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