Who Dunnit: A Review of “Witness for the Prosecution”


Written by Oscar Scholin, Journalist

The Masque and Wig production of “Witness for the Prosecution” began as a play adapted by Agatha Christie in 1953.  The first performance of “Witness for the Prosecution” took place in London in 1953 and then on Broadway in 1954, and received extremely positive reviews. The management of the theater in London reputedly suggested that “for the greater entertainment of your friends who have not yet seen the play, you will not divulge, to anyone, the secret of the ending.” This comment was in keeping with the advertising campaign for the film where one of the posters for the film said: “You’ll talk about it, but please don’t tell the ending.”

The Masque and Wig Production of this play ran from Thursday, Dec 6 through Saturday, Dec 8 in the “Sea” Wing Theater. The play, directed by the esteemed Jesse Herzog and Isabella Rowntree-Smith, and exceptionally engaging because the audience, unbeknownst to them, was the jury, as it was performed as a real-time courtroom drama.

The affable Leonard Vole, played convincingly by Elijah Taurke, is accused of the murder of a Mrs. French, a wealthy woman.  Legendary lawyer Sir Wilfrid Robarts, played brilliantly by Luke Herzog, represents Mr. Vole. Unfortunately, Mr. Vole’s alibi depends on the testimony of his callous wife, Romaine (played by Cady Simons or Madison Snow, depending on the date) — who, after the discovery of a legal loophole, makes the shocking decision to appear in court against Mr. Vole. To Sir Wilfrid’s surprise, Mrs. Vole’s disdain for her husband is only the first in a series of puzzling revelations and reversals.

In the Masque and Wig production, the actors were earnest and the costumes were colorful and creative. For example, Romaine’s red dress was stunning, and all of the male performers looked quite sartorial in their dapper suits.  The props, oh the props, were amazing. There was fog for the alleyway, creating an atmosphere of suspense. There were cigarettes for the menfolk, who smoked and drank whiskey. These allusions were harder to pull off than they look. For example, Luke Herzog admitted that the appearance of smoking on stage using cigarettes is easy than it seems. In reality, in order to achieve the effect of smoke emitting from the cigarette, the actors must blow out of the cigarette in order to achieve the effect of smoke, while at the same time give the appearance of inhaling, or blowing in. The effect was achieved through practice and practice.

Through the impeccable attention to detail and the skillful creation of scenes, the Masque and Wig performance kept the audience guessing until the very end. If you missed this play, or value quality entertainment, then check out the Wince & Repeat Improv Show on January 17th!