By Cassidy Perme, Highlands High School Cappies Critic Team
Simon Kenton High School’s production of “Witness for the Prosecution” was guilty of success and execution with no trial necessary.
Originally set in 1940s London, “Witness for the Prosecution” follows the trial of Leonard Vole and his potential murder of a wealthy older woman, Emily French. With eccentric characters and questionable witnesses and jury members, the trial is drawn out longer than expected. With all of this on the table, to add the madness, Vole’s wife Romaine, expected to stand with Vole, ends up a witness for the prosecution. With twists and turns at every plea, “Witness for the Prosecution” keeps every member of the audience wanting answers.
Simon Kenton High School’s rendition took a turn on the script as they chose to set the play in 1990s America. These changes played out beautifully as they allowed for effective comedic timing and build of character. With hard characters to embody and a need for a constant strenuous pace, Simon Kenton High School tackled all of these challenges with no objections.
With a tough court case to handle and the weight of the show on his shoulders, Mr. Wilfrid Robarts, portrayed by Aaron Hoppe, was in charge of both comedic and serious aspects of the production as well as maintaining the pace to keep the storyline intriguing. Right from the get-go, Hoppe did an impressive job balancing his relationship with Vole being genuine in contrast with his relationship with his counterpart, Ms. Meyers, the attorney for the prosecution, played by Mia Mariscal. On the other hand, Mariscal had an excellent performance as Meyers, allowing her big character to drive the role, leaving room for lots of laughs.
Supporting the allegations of the leads’ success were characters such as Judge Wainght, played by Taylor Hemingway, and Leonard Vole, played by Hunter Kerzee. For starters, Judge Wainght brought in the most laughs from the audience, playing up the sassy nature of the role. All of her jokes were able to land, and then some. In defense of Leonard Vole, his character required intense acting chops as he has to balance being put on trial, as well as maintaining his rocky relationship with his “wife,” Romaine. Kerzee portrayed this role with no misdemeanors, allowing the audience to advocate for his success in the jury room.
Beyond actors, the technical aspects were pivotal to the storytelling. In this light, the costumes and set pieces needed to ensure the courtroom came to life. The costumes, designed and executed by Alex Mastin, did an excellent job accentuating the individualistic characters, allowing them to have personality. On the other hand, the courtroom captivated the audience and made them feel a part of the jury due to the detailed set, designed and executed by Sarah Kelch, Peyton Gose, and Austin Shaffer.
Simon Kenton High School’s rendition of “Witness for the Prosecution” is accused of nothing short of a successful production due to their constant triumph in pacing, character, and technical elements.
By Izzy Moses, Highlands High School Cappies Critic Team
As witnesses took the stand, the tension in the courtroom grew. Who committed the murder, and which characters are worthy of trust? Simon Kenton’s production of “Witness for the Prosecution” combined student efforts and creative spins on a classic play, which made for a night of mystery and tension.
Agatha Christie’s play “Witness for the Prosecution” was originally written in the 1930s and set in Europe. The story follows Mr. Wilfrid Robarts as he represents defendant Leonard Vole who has recently been accused of killing a wealthy older woman. Unfortunately for Robarts, he encounters issues with Vole’s mysterious and unwilling wife, Romaine. The manipulation of the characters’ personas and smartly written script has captured the attention of theater-lovers everywhere since it was originally performed, including a film adaption from 1957.
Simon Kenton took inspiration from the O.J. Simpson trials, and chose to alter the setting to the 1990s as opposed to the 1930s. They also took creative liberties in terms of location, transporting audiences to America rather than Europe. These ideas were implemented seamlessly into the script and onstage.
Aaron Hoppe drove the case forward as the renowned and clever Mr. Wilfrid Roberts. His impressive articulation and mannerisms were indicative of how well he understood his character. Along with Hoppe, Natalie Meyer’s performance as Romaine not only displayed her diverse acting ability, but also, her dedication to her character. Meyer was able to differentiate her portrayals of Romaine and the Other Woman through accents, voice inflection, and distinct character walks.
Technical aspects of the show that were notable included the hard work put in by students to create the set. The set was functional as both Mr. Wilfrid Robarts’ office and the courtroom, proving to be a well-designed and practical set for the production. Also impressive was the stage management and stage crew, consisting of Allie Kemper, Austin Shaffer, Catne Russell, and Sophie Koehl. Scene changes were completed quickly and efficiently, leading right back into the show once the set flipped.
Simon Kenton’s production of “Witness for the Prosecution” was a creative and refreshing version of Agatha Christie’s original work. It was evident that the cast and crew worked incredibly hard to deliver a hard-hitting performance, leaving audiences shocked with every reveal.
By Sydney Cooper, Highlands High School Cappies Critic Team
In the court of law, a common phrase is, “innocent until proven guilty.” With this type of legal system, it is always on the burden of the prosecution to give proof of the crime. This is why some high-profile cases, such as the OJ trial, were ended in the charge of innocence, because the court was not 100 percent sure that he committed the crime. Leonard Vole in Simon Kenton High School’s production of “Witness for the Prosecution,” is no exception.
Written by playwright Agatha Christie in 1953, “Witness for the Prosecution” follows the story of a man, Leonard Vole, who has been accused of murdering an elderly woman and the subsequent trial that occurs to prove his innocence. Many witnesses are called to the bench, including his wife, Romaine, who testifies against him, creating confusion in both Mr. Vole and the defendant team. The play is filled with suspenseful moments and twists that make the show even more interesting to watch.
The overall element that made this show interesting to watch was the switch in time periods from the 1950s to the 1990s. This was a choice that was made not just by the director, but by the Student Director, Kelly Williams. After she had watched and read about some famous court cases in class, such as the OJ Simpson trial, she decided that it would be interesting to have their play reflect that same aura.
As well as the amazing talent from the student director, the lead actress, Natalie Meyer, pulled off an amazing performance as the wife of Leonard Vole, Romaine. As this character, Meyer had to not only find different ways to hold her body as she switched between Romaine and the Other Woman, but also perfect her German accent. Meyer was incredibly entertaining to watch on stage and always knew the exact right timing for jokes to land and how to hold herself like a powerful woman.
Even though there were times of repetitiveness between the witnesses in the courtroom scene, comic actress Taylor Hemingway lightened up the show with quick quips as Judge Wainght. When lawyers were getting in squabbles or witnesses were saying things that didn’t come out quite right, Hemingway always jumped in to give a quick comment about the situation which allowed the plot to move forward. Even though some of the jokes were from the 1950s and were difficult to understand, the humor was not lost in her body language and tone of voice.
To add onto the amazing talent of the actors, set designers, and builders, Sarah Kelch, Peyton Gose, and Austin Shaffer, created an amazing backdrop for the lawyer’s office. With only six weeks to plan and build the entire set, these students were able to include incredible detail to the office space and provide elements, such as the bulky computer and boombox, to enhance the portrayal of the time period, making the show even more interesting to watch.
With fantastic actors and an even better crew, Simon Kenton High School gave an incredibly thrilling and suspenseful performance waiting until the very last second to finally complete the story.
Excerpts from Top-Ranked Student Reviews
“Leading this murder trial was Mr. Wilfrid Robarts, played by Aaron Hoppe. Hoppe’s depiction of the inquisitive, yet charming Robarts was splendid. From his stern gaze when talking to the prosecutor, to his slow stride and clear dialect when questioning a witness.”
-Lin DeGraaf, Highlands High School
“The most notable part of the technical elements was, by far, the set, designed by Sarah Kelch and Peyton Gose. The set was decorated to match the 1990’s time period and proved to be quite functional as well, allowing smooth transitions from the law office to the courtroom. Costumes by Alex Mastin were also striking, as outfits perfectly represented each character’s personality.”
-Juli Russ, Highlands High School
“The cast was anchored by their obvious dedication to their roles. Despite occasional sound issues, the cast made sure to project, and the plot was never lost. From the click-clacking of the clerk, to the coffee crazed intern, this performance was one filled with eccentric characters that are reminiscent of popular crime show tropes. John-Michael Wardrop is a prime example of this. His character, Mr. Mayhew, spoke with a British accent for the entirety of the show. Wardrop never faltered in his portrayal which only enhanced his character work.”
-Vicky Alcorn, Highlands High School
“Aaron Hoppe did a wonderful job portraying the staid defense attorney, Mr. Wilfrid Robarts, as he looked at each witness he called with questioning eyes. He also had a great dynamic with Ms. Myers, portrayed by the talented Mia Marsical, as they made snippy remarks towards each other throughout the court proceedings.”
-Emma Erion, Mercy McAuley High School
“The crew of this production was not to be overlooked either, of course. With every aspect of the tech contributing to the convincing effect of the show, no stones were left unturned. From sets to costumes, the technical elements of this show were impressive and realistic. The sound crew never seemed to miss a cue, and the props accounted for every little detail of the time period, creating a consistent 1990’s aesthetic.”
-Lizzy Schutte, Mercy McAuley High School
“In the role of Romaine Vole, Natalie Meyer went above and beyond what was asked of her, strutting into the courtroom making her character adoring and enjoyable. The role of Romaine is diligently ambiguous to begin with, and Meyer tackled that fact with enthusiasm and grand animation.”
-Elizabeth Snelling, Ursuline Academy
“The various witnesses each embodied their characters throughout the whole performance. Teddy Neltner was quite memorable as Inspector Hearne. Loghan Currin played the housekeeper, Janet Mckenzie, with enough suspicion to keep the plot propelling forward and added to the mystery. Even Caleb Hoppe left a strong impression as the Clerk with only a handful of lines through strong reactions and timing.”
-Soumya Jaiswal, William Mason High School
These reviews also appeared on the Cincinnati Enquirer's website.