Where Are The Clarence Darrows When We Really Need Them?

Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

Coyote StageWorks, the professional theatrical group, now based in Palm Springs scored a major coup in producing and presenting a brilliant one man show “Clarence Darrow Tonight”, written and performed by award winning actor, playwright, director, producer, and all-round theatre and film Renaissance man Laurence Luckinbill.

The performance, at The Annenberg Theatre, Palm Springs, CA, was a one night only event (March 10, 2013) as part of Coyote StageWorks’ new community and outreach program called “Play Dates”.  And the best part is, all of these events and presentations are FREE to the public.

LLuckinbill-Darrow-3-web For those historians and/or just plain folks interested in the life of Clarence Darrow –  who often was referred to as “America’s most dangerous lawyer, and a follower of Satan” – you  missed one stimulating and enlightened evening of not only facts, but also in  witnessing the transformative power that only live theatre  provides.

Darrow earned that “dangerous man “ soubriquet from those who opposed him in the courts of law.  He was a champion of protecting the rights of those without a voice inside the privileged halls of government.  Also he was a primary member of the American Civil Liberties Union and a tireless fighter for civil rights and decent working conditions, and was a dedicated advocate for the abolition of the death penalty all of his adult working life.

LLuckinbill-Darrow-5-webLuckinbill as Darrow, brings the famous lawyer of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee, up close and personal, delivering a penetrating, riveting, and insightful portrait of the man many thought they knew but didn’t.  The production begins with Darrow/Luckinbill rhetorically asking the audience “What is justice?”  For the next ninety minutes we sit riveted and enthralled as the complicated answer to this most simple of questions is explored and parsed with examples and anecdotes by a master storyteller.

One-man shows can be tricky, at times, for performers.  Especially when waiting for that invisible, though palpable, audience feedback feeling that tells the performer his timing and internal pacing is in “sync” with the audience.  Luckinbill as Darrow, exudes the confidence and charm of a man who knows his subject and his audience. It’s a joy to watch a consummate professional, portray one of this country’s iconic lawyers from the past.

LLuckinbill-Darrow-2-web Laurence Luckinbill, is a protean actor, and frequently takes his repertoire of historical characters in a one-man show format on the road.  He has performed incisive, insightful, and entertaining portraits like “Clarence Darrow Tonight”, “Teddy Tonight” (about the life President Theodore Roosevelt), “Lyndon”, and “Hemingway”, all of which he has produced for the New York stage, for TV, and for DVD.  If you spot a TV listing or see an ad for a stage reading for any of his one-man shows, by all means, buy a ticket and make sure you see this talented actor at work.  It’s an experience you won’t soon forget.

Up next for Coyote StageWorks at the Annenberg Theatre, is the one-man show “TRU”, the Truman Capote story, starring Chuck Yates, a co-founding member of Coyote StageWorks and its current Artistic Director.

Truman Capote was an American novelist who became famous and a celebrity for his novella “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in 1958, which was later made into a movie starring Audrey Hepburn.  His novel “In Cold Blood” (four years in the writing) became a best seller in 1966, and was made into the chilling murder-Athriller movie by iconic director Richard Brooks.

According to Yates, it’s a play he has wanted not only to produce, but to star in as well.  “I’ve been waiting almost thirty years to play this role.  Now, I’m finally the right age.”

“TRU”, opens at the Annenberg Theatre Friday, April 19th.  For tickets and reservations call the Box Office at 760-325-4490.

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