Actor meets Lawyer in Performance
I have played lawyers several times, in TV and in the Theater. This, however, is the first time that I have played a lawyer who finds himself plunged into a dark night of the soul.
This play, very loosely based on real events, revolves around a Skin Head, a Neo Nazi, who kicks a South Asian man to death and is assigned a Jewish Public Defender. A powerful, provocative play forcing each man to confront his core beliefs. Each is deeply affected by the interaction, and yet the play does not have a “pat,” easy ending. There is ambiguity and unease by the end of the experience.
In preparing for this role, I had the distinct advantage of my work with trial lawyers over the past 36 years. And most particularly, my work with Public Defenders. My experience has been that many Public Defenders either have a crusading zeal, unfazed by the burden and weight of their work; or appear weighed down by the burden of the work. Danny Dunkelman, the character in CHERRY DOCS has the crusading zeal. In fact, he has what seems to me to be an arrogance in his ability to claim “some small piece of redemption” for Michael (the Skin Head). By the end of the play, Danny confesses that he needed to claim that redemption, “even if (he) had to beat it out of him with the broken back of…a chair.”
Raised as an observant Jew with a strong sense of Tikkun Olam (healing the world), Danny rises to the challenge of defending Michael with every fiber of his intellect and soul. The toll it takes on Danny is crushing.
I have relished the opportunity to explore both my Jewish roots and my knowledge of working lawyers in preparing this role. Performances begin September 6 and play for 6 weeks, one performance each week through October 13 at the Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon, California. We will be offering 2 Hours of LIVE CLE Ethics credit for attorneys who attend the play and stay for a discussion afterwards.
TIP: Be vigilant in choosing your clients. Danny twice says that he may not be the best lawyer to put forward Michael’s defense. The toll it takes on him proves that he might have been better off passing this case on to a colleague.