The Trial of Jane Fonda
The Assembly Rooms
One of Henry Fonda’s greatest moments came in persuading Twelve Angry Men to calm down. In this historical reconstruction, his daughter Jane is asked to do pretty much the same in a drama that might easily have been called Five Angry Rednecks.
To succeed fully, Terry Jastrow’s play needs to work on three different fronts but only manages to tick two of those boxes.
As a history lesson, the play is fascinating, informing viewers of Jane Fonda’s activities in North Vietnam during the early 1970s. Treason is the word that comes to mind as one watches film footage of the star sitting on an enemy gun, while smiling beamingly.
As an opportunity for the actress to defend her position, the piece is also informative, greatly helped by a starring performance from Hollywood favourite Anne Archer, of Fatal Attraction fame.
Where things go wrong is in the portrayal of the vets who have been invited by a priest to his New England church (pleasantly but very simply conveyed by designer Alex Marker) a decade and a half after the events in order to catechise the woman they know as Barbarella.
They shout far too much before being inexplicably won over, even as the case against the woman they all call Jane gets weaker.
Despite this reservation, thanks to Anne Archer’s performance plus the opportunity to understand Jane Fonda’s motivations and learn more about a war that all Americans must now be keen to forget, The Trial of Jane Fonda is definitely worth a visit.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher