The Verdict is based on an Oscar-nominated film and centers on the story of lawyer Frank Galvin (Ian Kelsey), who takes on a near-impossible case against the Catholic Church in order to do the right thing and help a helpless woman. However interesting the premise sounded, I was left feeling disappointed in the execution.
The stage immediately struck me as gorgeous and intricate. On the left side was an office, complete with a window that opened and closed at various points in the story and a functional door. On the right stood a bar that looked so real, it was difficult not to stare. The backdrop, featuring snow-covered city scenery, really completed the overall aesthetic and set up the atmosphere very well. When the second act started, I was blown away by how life-like the courtroom on stage looked. My compliments go to the techies; the sound effects and lighting really enhanced this set and made it a joy just to look at.
The actors’ performances were very convincing as well. I was particularly impressed with Holly Jackson Walters’ portrayal of Natalie Stampanatto; she managed to hold the attention of the whole audience with the few lines she had. In general, I found that the actors embodied their characters well.
Unfortunately, I was not quite as impressed with the story. What started as a story about helping a young woman whose life had been ruined by doctors who cared more about avoiding public scandal, wound up turning into something of a white male saviour narrative. It often felt as though the script was more concerned with pointing out what a ‘hero’ and a ‘good guy’ Frank was for simply not being as corrupt as his opponents in court, than it was with respectfully portraying the tragedy that caused the lawsuit in the first place.
The last thing we see is the conclusion to the (in my opinion unnecessary) romance between Donna (Josephine Rogers) and Frank – not Mrs McDaid (Anne Kavanagh) celebrating the justice that has been achieved for her daughter. The focus was constantly on Frank, no matter who was on the stage. Even when he is not present, other characters are almost always talking about him, such as when Donna is conveniently told Frank’s entire backstory in one section of dialogue. This felt jarring.
In the end, the problems I had were largely with the script, not with the execution. However, I did feel that the first act moved too slowly, and that much of the second act would have remained unchanged if the pacing in the first were increased. The tension in the courtroom was palpable, and this was rather exciting. I just missed that feeling in the first half, the feeling of waiting with bated breath for the next reveal.
PHOTOS: Capital Theatres