The Witness Room Review – A Vision Test for Justice

Louie Liberti, Moe Irvin, Tricia Small, Mitch Rosander, and Dave Baez in THE WITNESS ROOM - Photo by Kenny Johnston
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THE WITNESS ROOM makes its world premiere at the Whitefire Theatre in 2024. Helmed by Bryan Rasmussen (also the artistic director of Whitefire Theatre), THE WITNESS ROOM is a no-holds barred courtroom drama by 30-year veteran playwright Pedro Antonio Garcia, co-founder of The Dramatic Question Theatre Company in New York City and successful writer for television programs like “Law & Order, Special Victims Unit.” He is also a civil rights/criminal defense attorney based in NYC who has seen it all and is willing to share his insights with audiences everywhere.

Louis Liberti, Moe Irvin, and Mitch Rosander – Photo by Kenny Johnston

The place is a witness room in Manhattan Criminal Court and the time is now. Four battle-hardened NYPD cops (Moe Irvin as Terrence Sampson, Louie Liberti as TJ Moretti, Mitch Rosander as Kevin Brennan, and Dave Baez as Eli Torres) are scheduled to testify at a hearing being prosecuted by Andrea Volpi (Tricia Small), an ambitious, tough, and no-nonsense attorney who’s seen her share of street criminals. Each of the witnesses has already signed an affidavit swearing to the events which led up to the arrest in question, and each nonchalantly assures the prosecutor that he’s ready to “follow the playbook” and corroborate the testimony of his fellow officers. But what if there is a slight “error” in the testimony given by one of the officers – and what if one of the “boys in blue” begins to question the events in the take-down? And how about if fact collides with fiction and justice goes head-to-head with corruption to create a moral conundrum?

Tricia Small – Photo by Kenny Johnston

Director Bryan Rasmussen does a brilliant job of keeping up the pace while fleshing out each of the inhabitants in the witness room. He is ably assisted by the talented ensemble of actors, each of whom is so believable that the fourth wall begins to crumble. THE WITNESS ROOM is a compelling and intriguing snapshot of what justice may look like in the real world. But hope remains so long as at least one person is willing to keep questioning – or does it? Kudos to Garcia for writing this powerful and superbly-written tale and to the excellent direction and strong acting chops all around.

Dave Baez and Tricia Small – Photo by Kenny Johnston

And let’s not forget the production team, including Jeff G. Rack’s simple and even stark set decoration, Derrick McDaniel’s lighting, Laura Tiefer’s costumes, and Mitch Rosander’s sound. Nods are also in order for fight choreographer Bonzai Vitali and graphic designer Michele King. All elements in the production have combined to create a spellbinding, suspenseful story of life, death, racism, morality, loyalty, and the “blue wall of silence.”

THE WITNESS ROOM is a must-see for audiences and will prove especially appealing for those whose preferences include courtroom drama, law, morality, justice, and how culture influences our views on just about everything. And don’t forget that zinger ending. You’ll never see it coming.

THE WITNESS ROOM runs through April 27, 2024, with performances at 8 p.m. on Saturdays beginning on March 23.  The Whitefire Theatre is located at 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423. Tickets are $40 (seniors and students $25). For information and reservations, call 818-687-8559 or go online.

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