Nuts Written by Tom Topor
Directed by Vicki L Wicks
Starring Jessa Dodds, Russell R Trahan, and Ken Anders
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park, FL

I believe you would call this show a “Procedural”. Set in a courtroom, the story unwinds as the testimony it typed out by the quietly efficient court reporter Patricia Liu. The crime in question in a murder committed by miss Claudia Draper (Dodds); details are few but the phrase “Self-defense” was mentioned sotto voce. The body is of less concern than her mental health; she’s trapped in the Bellevue Hospital system and that’s a legal machine that offers little in the way of justice. Brief interviews by weasley doctor Herb Rosenthal (Anders) and an unseen Panamanian doctor can doom her to a life of thorazine and bedroom slippers and no appeal. Today is her one chance at hope; untried legal beagle Aaron Levinsky (Trahan) will try to wrest her from the quicksand of Rosenthal and her mom Rose (Christina Griffith) and her evil step dad Arthur (Kevon Hudson). Arthurs offers more enthusiasm than proper when describing the bathing procedure for little Claudia, and this gives Levinsky an angle; he attacks with a building furor. Passive judge Murdock (Anthony Marando) admires the tactics but not the result. After all, what good is a psyche ward without warders?

While the first act drags, the second act pops. When Ms. Draper takes the stand she’s witty, sarcastic, and knowledgeable about the law and in no way indicative of a woman not able to defend herself. True, she spent time as a classy hooker; her recitations of her price list and terms are hysterical as is her indignant retort to mom: “Don’t judge me by my blow jobs!” I, of course, have nothing to go on but her word. Trahan’s Yellow Pages law practice looks like it will go places; he adapts to shifting situations feigning and dodging and carefully building to a fine Perry Mason climax. Anders’ Rosenthal seems tired and unhappy; his job is particularly depressing as are his professional digs. A career of sorting the major psychiatric illnesses from the minor undoubtedly leaves him with a bitter after taste of phenothiazine and stale urine. Marando’s Judge is calm and intellectual; he’s light on judicial formality and open to arguments but has precious little to do in the story. The same is true for Bailiff Haggerty (Darren Aklan) and Ms. Liu; he passes out cigarettes and her big moment is the closing denouement. That leaves the nuclear threat of a family of the Kirk-Drapers; we know Arthurs understands the value of a terry cloth bath robe and his wife of a designer purse and good address in Westchester County. Ms. Draper is not only technically sane, she seems to be the only one with a plan in life, and that’s to leave Westchester county behind and find a place in life she can call her own. We cheer for her, and if I had any advice to offer her it would be this: law school, babe. You can make it happen.

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