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  january 29
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RED Reviews

Man Destroyed by This Issue of RED

Well-Executed ‘Execution of Justice’
by Christian Gentry
  Joey Dixon as Dan White sports his handy revolver while consoling Amanda Fulks as Mary Anne White in "Execution of Justice."  

an Francisco 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 story.

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 emotional state.
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.

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