No Frills Theatre Company
American Justice is set during the hopeful years of the Obama administration, when some attempt was made to reform the appalling American prison system.
The character Congressman Daniels believes prisoners should have educational opportunities. He has successfully had the sentence of death on Lee Fenton (Lewis Burn) for the murder of Daniels’s daughter commuted to life imprisonment, with Daniels being allowed to personally teach the prisoner.
That is no easy task given both guards and prisoner treat him with contempt. But he insists that “there is such a thing as redemption” and sets about proving it with Lee.
He arranges for Lee to receive reading glasses, provides him with books and is soon chatting to him about One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
Andrew Hogarth gives a strong, measured performance in gesture and words as the politician with a conscience.
However, what he says can feel like a monologue, since Lee says barely anything and the Warden spends much of his stage time simply rushing onto the set to give Lee a whack with his stick.
It means we get very little sense of character beyond Daniels and even he remains a bit of a mystery.
When Lee admits he is “not sure I ever saw a grief stricken father”, he was voicing the thought that must have crossed the mind of many an audience member.
The cast give a brisk, confident performance, but the play is a very improbable thriller that fails to develop character, social issues or any insight into the world.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna