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Theater Review: Clarence Darrow

The art of performing a one-man show isn’t lost on Robert Angelo, whose solo performance looms large throughout “Clarence Darrow.”  This unique, accomplished night of stage craft takes place at the Pro Arts Theater in Kihei, located in Azeka Marketplace. It gives us Angelo as Darrow, the brilliant and legendary lawyer, as he provides the audience with stories from his life and career.

Working from a play written by David W. Rintels, Angelo recognizes that this kind of performance is a carefully measured marathon, in which a steady pace and not a sprint are the key. To dispense with the running analogy and be more directly congratulatory, Angelo doesn’t rush to histrionics or demonstrative acting. His Darrow is contemplative and still holding an inner fire for the cases that defined his career.

Rintels’ play is rich with wit and colorful anecdotes. There are compelling recollections of Darrow’s defense of the McNamara brothers in Los Angeles, the suffering of Pennsylvania coal miners and the Scopes Monkey trial. The moments where Darrow steps into his memories and gives us a taste of his forceful courtroom manner are especially captivating.

Angelo lets us in, allowing us to see Darrow both proud and cynical of the things he witnessed during his long career. At one point, he’s considers that “we are all a bundle of prejudices.” Some of this feels like a reflection of American life long past, while others will note how Darrow addresses topics that are still deeply troubling. Angelo’s strong presence more than holds the stage and his voice has a pleasing growl that reminds of the late, great George C. Scott and Robert Loggia.

To state the obvious, one-man shows like this appeal most to those interested in the central figure. If you’ve never heard of the “Monkey trial” and think it may be a reference to the climax of ‘Planet of the Apes,” then this show may not be for you. On the other hand, even those with a passing knowledge of the Leopold and Loeb case or “Inherit The Wind” will be drawn in. Admirers of Darrow and legal history should devour this heartily.

Steven Sawyer’s simple but effective set places us in Darrow’s head space, presenting an empty courtroom. It provides Darrow with a landscape to bring his recollections to life. However, even with a well dressed stage, the main attraction is seeing Angelo carry the show. Carol Lem co-directed with Angelo and clearly recognized that, with a show like this, less is more. Angelo leaves his audience with ideas worthy of discussion, quotable lines and a rewarding example of how an artist can create a transfixing night of theater, alone on a stage and make it appear effortless. Angelo, a veteran actor, makes Darrow endearing and gives us a window into the life of an extraordinary man.

Clarence Darrow is playing at the ProArts Theater in Kihei on Saturday, January 13th at 7:30 PM and Sunday January 14th at 3PM. Tickets are available at www.proartsmaui.com or by calling 808-463-6550. 

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About Barry Wurst II

Barry Wurst II
Barry Wurst II is a senior editor & film critic at MAUIWatch. He wrote film reviews for a local Maui publication and taught film classes at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs (UCCS). Wurst also co-hosted podcasts for Screengeeks.com and has been published in Bright Lights Film Journal and in other film-related websites. He is currently featured in the new MAUIWatch Podcast- The NERDWatch.

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