Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Unnatural Acts: Harvard's Secret Court of 1920 ***
I hope Ben Brantley's negative review won't dissuade anyone from seeing this worthwhile play at CSC, especially since all the other reviews were favorable. The story of Harvard's secret trial of students suspected of being "homosexualists" and its devastating consequences remained virtually unknown for 80 years, until a student on the Harvard Crimson discovered the locked file that contained handwritten transcripts of the trial and Harvard was forced to make the information available. The Plastic Theatre, a collective led by Tony Speciale, has a process similar to that of Moises Kaufman's Tectonic Theater group (The Laramie Project). The group of actors and writers spent two years on research, character development and improvisation workshops to create this play. The results are mostly excellent. The few weak moments are outweighed by several scenes that pack a tremendous wallop. It's a rare pleasure to see an ensemble of 11 actors on a New York stage these days. One interesting point is that the same actors play both the young men on trial and their judges. Reducing the number of characters would no doubt have made things easier for both the creators and the audience, but verissimilitude took precedence. The acting is mostly strong and the set, costumes and especially the lighting all contribute greatly to the success of the production. The cast includes Jess Burkle, Joe Curnutte, Frank De Julio, Roe Hartrampf, Roderick Hill, Max Jenkins, Brad Koed, Jerry Marsini, Devin Norik, Will Rogers and Nick Westrate. Running time: 2hours, 10 minutes including intermission. Note: There is brief nudity.