JOHNNY LAW, Courtroom Crusader
nytheatre.com review by Gyda Arber
August 14, 2008
At the beginning of JOHNNY LAW, Courtroom Crusader, we find attorney Johnny Law in his lucky hotel room, preparing for his closing argument in a drug-possession case. Law actually believes that this person, unlike his typical clients, is innocent, and, even more unusually, the client will not accept a plea bargain of any kind. So Law finds himself in the midst of a trial. As he prepares, he reminisces about law school, his years as a public defender, his brief foray into entertainment law, his reemergence as a criminal defense lawyer, and, of course, Perry Mason. His recollections are interrupted by his ever-persistent cell phone, with different key players in the case calling in, providing updates and plot points, a great device to add action to a one-man show.
The stellar performance of the charming Tim Ryan Meinelschmidt anchors the show; Meinelschmidt takes us through an abundance of characters that Law has encountered during his time in the legal profession—law professors (both constitutional and criminal), bosses, fellow lawyers, prisoners, guards, judges, and, of course, a host of clients. Meinelschmidt handles the characterization of each of these types with aplomb, effortlessly switching between characters to create a vivid picture of this sordid world.
Writers Meinelschmidt and Thomas L. Fox certainly know their stuff; the show provides a lot of insight into the legal profession, with a ton of insider information about the inner workings of the criminal justice system. At times the show feels like a really fabulous class (and I mean that in a good way), but all in all it's too long; the show would be greatly served by some judicious cuts and quicker pacing.
FringeNYC has always been a hotbed of one-person shows, and this year is no exception. JOHNNY LAW, Courtroom Crusader is a fine example of good writing and great acting—wannabe lawyers or other legal types won't want to miss this.