By: Paulanne Simmons
Often when professionals step out of their accustomed roles to make their point by becoming playwrights, the results are not happy. Not so with attorney (and now playwright) Norman Shabel. His new play, A Class Act, is absorbing, suspenseful and often moving.
Michael DeCapua, Jenny Strassburg
The plot revolves around the efforts of one group of attorneys to force a major chemical company to pay for the damages it has done by pouring cancer-causing waste into the water supply, and the company’s attorneys efforts to literally get away with murder.
Thus A Class Act gives the audience a behind-the-scenes look at not only how the two teams negotiate with each other but also what they are saying and doing behind each others’ back. And director Christopher Scott smoothly negotiates this back-and-forth to reveal that justice is not only blind; it is often crippled as well.
The two teams are composed almost entirely of men, but Jenny Strassbug more than holds her own as the sole female, Dorothy Pilsner, the company’s sexy, ruthless powerhouse who knows her career is on the line after the not so successful outcome of a previous class action suit.
Some of the best scenes of the play are when Pilsner tries to get her fangs into the personally vulnerable Ben Donaldson (Lou Liberatore) and the young, but not naive Frank Warsaw (Matthew DeCapua), two members of the opposing team, headed by the solid Phil Alessi (the equally solid Stephen Bradbury).
David Marantz (Edward Duchamp) and Nick Plakias (John Dubliner) are believably evil as the company’s executives, and Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte gives the company’s counsel a nice touch of ambivalence that sometimes borders on ethics.
A Class Act takes many unexpected twists until it gets to its emotionally satisfying but disturbing ending. As Shabel makes perfectly clear, there are no good guys when money is the motive, and pain doesn’t go away even when you get your way.
A Class Act ****
New World Stages — Stage 5, 340 West 50th Street, through Sept. 4, http://newworldstages.com. Photos: Carol Rosegg
Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte, Jenny Strassburg