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THEATER REVIEW : 'Darrow' Strong Case for Courtroom Drama : The one-man presentation brings to life the career of one of America's preeminent attorneys.

March 10, 1994|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Ventura County playgoers have several choices before them during the next few weeks, none more strongly recommended than the opportunity to see Ernest Huntley's portrayal of "Clarence Darrow," now in production by Ventura's Plaza Players.

It's a one-man presentation, written by David Rintels from the point of view of the veteran attorney and civil libertarian.

Darrow, who died in 1938, participated in numerous fascinating and historically important cases--including the Pullman Strike of 1894, the Scopes "Monkey Trial" of 1925, and the defense of thrill killers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. He was a vital cog in the American labor movement and saved more than 50 accused murderers from capital punishment, a penalty he fought indefatigably.

Rintels' script includes all of those cases and more, some of them more thoroughly depicted than others. (It neglects to mention, for instance, that Darrow's defense of Tennessee schoolteacher John Scopes' teaching of Darwin's then-illegal theory of evolution lost to prosecutor William Jennings Bryan.)

The play largely ignores Darrow's personal life--but evidently so did Darrow, so caught up in the law and his causes was he.

There's considerable drama--waiting for the verdict in a seemingly unwinnable Iowa murder trial, discovering the medieval conditions under which Americans were forced to work well into this century, and learning why Darrow's defense of two brothers accused of bombing the Los Angeles Times in 1911 lost him the backing of the labor movement and virtually cost him his career.

Huntley's performance, directed by Michael Maynez, is strong and assured--although Darrow may have grandstanded in front of juries, Huntley doesn't need to before his audience, and his performance is all the stronger for it.

Details

* WHAT: Clarence Darrow.

* WHEN: Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., through April 9.

* WHERE: Plaza Players Theater, 34 N. Palm St. (in the Livery Arts Center), Ventura.

* COST: $7 Wednesdays, $9 Fridays and $10 Saturdays.

* FYI: For reservations or further information, call 643-9460.

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