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Theater Review

'Scales of Justice' Teeters Between the Extremes


William C. Kovacsik's world premiere play "Scales of Justice," at the Long Beach Playhouse's Studio Theatre, is a well-crafted and often intelligent play marred by stereotypes and a certain obviousness.

There's an almost cinematic quality to Kovacsik's drama about battling student editors at a university law review who are furiously divided over whether or not to allow a controversial Supreme Court justice to speak at their graduation ceremonies.

With a few revisions, the story could find a second life as a feature film. Its twentysomething characters are impassioned, politically precocious and sexually eclectic--a natural for Hollywood's youth demographic. But those revisions are key. Kovacsik too often idiot-proofs his material, making didactic ethical pronouncements that cheapen the integrity of the piece.

The most obvious example is the fractious dynamic between Paul (Vincent Roca), the head of the law review, and his bricklayer dad, Joe (Ian Tanza), a character who seems bafflingly extraneous to the plot. At play's end, when Paul arrives at a moral crossroads, Joe is conveniently on hand to point out just what Paul has to lose by compromising his principles--a deduction that should be self-evident to the audience.

Additionally, director Martin Lang too often allows the rhythms of Kovacsik's sharp dialogue to degenerate into archness. And, of course, the play's African American female is an in-your-face kind of gal, while the obligatory feminist is bound to be secretly lesbian. Need we say that the Supreme Court justice in question (Richard Meese), a dangerous ideologue, is a right-winger?

That said, Kovacsik exploits his stereotypes to surprisingly cerebral effect. "Scales of Justice" is a flawed but consistently entertaining examination of the dangers of censorship in a free society. Moreover, it explores the perils of self-righteousness and blind self-justification--growing threats that undermine rational discourse on both sides of the political spectrum.


"Scales of Justice," Long Beach Playhouse's Studio Theatre, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. This Sunday and Sept. 29, 2 p.m. Ends Oct. 5. $20. (562) 494-1014. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

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