Gripping “Judgment At Nuremberg” Latest At The Midnight Company

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Photo: Joey Rumpell

The film version of “Judgment At Nuremberg” was nominated for eleven Oscars and won two- one for Maximilian Schell as the defense attorney and one for adapted screenplay for Abby Mann. She had earlier written the play for the old Playhouse 90 television show and then revised the script for this stage version. It made courtroom drama popular which inspired “Perry Mason” and the slew of such shows we’ve had since. This one from The Midnight Company is a stellar production with excellent visual effects to enhance the proceedings.

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Photo: Joey Rumpell

Joe Hanrahan, Artistic Director of Midnight, plays Judge Dan Haywood, the lead judge who, along with two others, must decide the fate of three men involved in the Third Reich and their participation in Nazi war crimes. With a laid back and keen eye for the facts, Mr. Hanrahan dissects the evidence and comes to his own conclusions while one of the other two judges balks at his findings. It’s a complicated case which must be weighed for the merits of their actions at the time and what they knew about the atrocities involving concentration camps and the horrific things that went on there. His final confrontation in the judges’ chambers and the outcome of the trial of the three men (judges in their own right at the time) are powerful stuff.

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Photo: Joey Rumpell

Chuck Winning as prosecutor Colonel Tad Parker is dynamic in his delivery and has the power of the films from the camps that Hitler insisted on recording by the likes of filmmaker and propagandist Leni Riesenstahl (used extensively in the powerful documentary “Night And Fog”). His foe, Oscar Rolfe, is played with stunning bravado and even touching sympathy by Cassidy Flynn. His impassioned plea in his final summation is heartbreaking.

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Photo: Joey Rumpell

The other judges are played by Jack Corey and Charles Heuvelman while the three on trial are played by the brilliant Steve Callahan, Terry TenBroek and Hal Morgan. Charlotte Dougherty is superb as the landlady to Judge Haywood for his stay in Nuremberg, Mrs. Habelstadt and a bravura performance from Rachel Tibbets as Frau Margarete Bertholt who the judge displaced in the apartment. She becomes the tour guide and close companion of the judge during his stay in Germany.

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Photo: Joey Rumpell

Other characters including witnesses and military personnel include fine work by Francesca Ferrari and Jaz Tucker along with Mark Abels, Steve Garrett, Michael B. Perkins and Alex Fyles.

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Photo: Joey Rumpell

Ellie Schwetye has directed with a strong knowledge of the time and importance of the material. She moves things along and keeps the two hour (with one intermission) play gripping and tense. The Jonah Sheckler set design is functional  but the video design of Michael B. Perkins makes the difference with a steady set of slides and film projected on the background to put us in the place whether it be the courtroom, the ruins of Nuremberg, the horrors of the concentration camps or other sites around the area. Bess Moynihan’s lights are just about perfect and the appropriate costumes of Sarah Porter complete the look that keeps the play riveted in the time period. A shout out to Pamela Reckamp as well for her excellent work in keeping the actors on point with their dialects.

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Photo: Joey Rumpell

It’s hard to direct a cast this large in such an important work. Although some of the acting was a bit sketchy, the power of the story comes through in a production worthy of your time. It’s a reminder in these days  when where we’re seeing stories on social media about millennials who have no idea what a concentration camp was that we can never forget. “Judgment At Nuremberg” has a short run- only through this Sunday but you also have a chance to see two matinees (along with evening performances) on Saturday and Sunday. Contact the Missouri History Museum (where the play is being staged) at mohistory.org/judgement-at-nuremberg for tickets.

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