BWW Review: 74 SECONDS... TO JUDGEMENT at Arden Theatre Co.

BWW Review: 74 SECONDS... TO JUDGEMENT at Arden Theatre Co.
Photo by Mark Garvin

When you hear about trials, you get the facts presented in the trial: jury selection, witness testimony, opening and closing arguments, and the verdict. What you never see, however, is what goes on when the jury is let off the record to decide the case. You can never really be sure what led those jurors to come to the verdict they did.

74 Seconds... To Judgement at Arden Theatre Company brings you inside the room where it happens, and presents an interesting perspective about cases in which police are on trial for the murder of black individuals.

The play, written by Philly-native Kash Goins (who also plays Bill), is the story of six jurors deliberating a fictional case similar to that of many real high-profile cases in which a young black man and his family come to a head with an officer. As the play progresses, the facts of the case come out, and so do the biases each juror holds based on their previous experiences.

The jurors represent six voices that often come into play during these types of cases: Pat, a sympathetic white man, Doug, a white former cop, Brandon, a young black man, Bill, a wealthy older black man who tries to avoid confrontation, Kim, a white mother, and Ramona, a middle class black woman. While deliberating, the jurors get into tense discussions about race, personal experience, and the meaning of justice.

After Brandon suggests the jury act out the events of the case, it becomes clear that each juror fits a role. Brandon is the young man confronted by Doug, the policeman. Ramona "plays" Brandon's caring mother, while Bill is his dad who teaches him how to act around cops. Kim and Pat don't take a direct role in the case, but instead are bystanders.

The play is slow to start, but eventually makes the point that any of the players in these cases, which may seem far away, could be people you know. A very realistic jury room set (designed by Dustin Pettegrew), equipped with a working microwave and fluorescent lights, only adds to this. Though some physical fights between jurors ignited by racial conflict may seem like a stretch, it's fair to say that something like this could have happened during jury deliberation for one of these cases.

74 Seconds... To Judgement gives the audience a play-by-play understanding of how Goins views black experience through interactions between jurors and the story of the case as it unfolds. This perspective is important, because Goins digs deep into black experience at home, in school, and on the street -- all topics not often represented in mainstream media. The play is gritty, and dark and real. It helps to lay out a play-by-play of how people react to controversial deaths where lines are not clearly drawn. Because these cases will be so woven into the history of our lifetimes, this play will surely become a part of the historical canon.

74 Seconds... To Judgement runs util Mar. 3, and tickets can be purchased HERE.

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From This Author Alyssa Biederman