BWW Review: TERROR at Miami New Drama
Miami New Drama has opened its inaugural season as the new resident theatre company at Miami Beach's Colony Theatre with Ferdinand Von Schirach's TERROR, a court room drama that asks how many people can be killed to justify saving the lives of others.
A USAF fighter pilot is accused and on trial for shooting down a hijacked passenger plane after being ordered not to fire. One hundred and sixty four people are killed, fifty thousand others are potentially saved.
Much expense has been spared in presenting a barren stage with makeshift tables for the judge, prosecuting and defense attorneys and the accused. Two rows of courtroom spectators are selected audience members who sit on three sides of the stage.
The audience in the house are the jurors and they will later be asked to return a verdict.
Well connected in New York and with well known Theatre Associates, MND has cast veteran actors, some with Broadway experience.
A bailiff (Gabriel Bonilla) enters and calls "All Rise" and the audience members climb to their feet. The judge, played by Maria Tucci, seats them and explains details of the coming trial. Then in turn the prosecutor and the defense attorney state their cases. Pascal Armand is the prosecutor and Peter Romano the defense attorney.
The first witness, USAF Colonel Brook, played by standout Gregg Weiner, was the officer of the day when the hijacking occurred. He explains the situation in the air and on the ground, his call upward through the chain of command to the ultimate superior, asking whether the hijacked airplane should be destroyed or escorted by the accused and her wing man. He relays the answer, she should not shoot, to the pilot.
The pilot, played by Mia Maestro, testifies about her early life and the pride she feels to be a fighter pilot as only the very best pilots are selected for that role. She admits she disobeyed her orders, went hot and shot. Her argument, better to kill a relative few than risk the death of thousands.
The rest of the two act piece is devoted to the philosophical arguments: how sacred is one human life? Past incidents in history, variations on shoot or not, are discussed at length. Disclosure here that may be of interest: many years ago I was a fighter pilot and a part of the training never forgotten was choosing the correct action if, as captain of a navy destroyer accompanying a convoy, should I drop depth charges on an enemy submarine hiding beneath survivors of a ship the sub has just sunk? Yes, indeed. Kill the sub. No philosophical waffling there.
The strong cast generally handled their roles well with the exception of Pascale Armand as the prosecutor, who, on opening night, booted her lines with some regularity.
Rita Joe was movingly effective as surviving widow, Mrs Meiser who relates her feelings following the death of her husband in the destroyed airliner.
Not a particularly engrossing court room drama, TERROR culminates with the audience being asked to vote on the accused pilot's fate. Apart from wandering courtroom spectators there's no action on the stage for more than several minutes while ushers gather the guilty/not guilty cards and deliver them for counting. Immersion in the drama is lost and the ensuing verdict is anti-climactic.
Directed by the renowned two time Tony winner Gregory Mosher.
Given the buildup, the people involved in this opening night and the exceptional state of theatre in South Florida, I expected more than an apparently under rehearsed off off off B'way presentation.
There was a standing ovation at the curtain call, however.
Photo: Gregg Weiner as Colonel Brook