in the 1970s was
fast becoming a polarized political powder keg. On
one side were the traditionalist Irish Catholics,
on the other side were the gays, lesbians and their
sympathizers. This fast became a power struggle that
would have lasting repercussions—repercussions
that started with the nine shots that were unloaded
from the gun of all-American yet disgruntled ex-city
supervisor Dan White into social activist Mayor Moscone
and Harvey Milk, a gay man from the East coast.
The adaptation of the People v. Dan White was captured
through the creative talent of playwright Emily Mann
in her play “Execution of Justice.” Under
the tutelage and insight of guest director Kathleen
Powers, the University of Utah’s Babcock Theatre
presented this heavy drama that not only exploits
injustice in the American court system, but also
illustrates the social injustices that face the country.
The meager sentence of seven years in prison for
two counts of voluntary manslaughter sent San Francisco
ablaze in rioting and violence.
Taking on such an emotionally weighty subject is
an intimidating task, but the succinct and pointed
script, combined with the creative staging, downsized
the difficulty while maintaining the message of the
The story itself works well on the stage, but solely
relying upon this could lead the play into a dry
documentary style rather than a powerful drama.
Through a full-fledged cast of experienced actors
and actresses (most of them being seniors in the
Actor Training Program), the production brilliantly
captures drama of this historical moment. It is a
rare treat to have a guest director such as Kathleen
Powers at the helm. Her creative direction coupled
with powerful actors provided a show that will have
a great run.
Performances by seniors Josephine Wilson (Thomas
F. Norman, Assistant D.A.) and Jamie Wilcox (Douglas
Schmidt, D.A.) helped propel the dialogue and storyline
forward without relinquishing the slower moments
that give the audience and other actors time to react
to the case being presented. Although there were
a few obvious dropped lines and miscues, they never
detracted from the significance of the story.
Although there were other strong performances by
Jeff Drown (Joseph Frietas, D.A.) and Anna Christiansen
(Gwenn Craig), the portrayal of Dan White by Joey
Dixon was rather unconvincing. Despite his rather
experienced résumé, his short confessional
monologue didn’t gather much sympathy. It seemed
as if he was trying to convince himself of his character’s
This play stands on the forefront of the running
commentary of American social injustice, like Anne
Deveare Smith’s “Twilight” for
example, and should not be neglected.
“Just justice is what we ask.” This statement,
given by D.A. Douglas Schmidt, sums up the irony surrounding
the play and its intense subject matter.
“The Execution of Justice” runs
at the Babcock Theatre through Sunday. Feb. 1,
then Feb. 5 through 8. For more information, call
355-ARTS or the Kingsbury Hall box office at 581-7100.