Theater Review - You're The Jury: The State vs. Max Cooper (The James Downing Theatre)

Theater Review - You're The Jury: The State vs. Max Cooper (The James Downing Theatre)

We all love a courtroom drama, right? Add some comedy and interaction from the audience and we will love it even more. Count Gregula and I had the opportunity to attend a production of "You're The Jury: The State vs. Max Cooper" and it was a ton of fun!

Max Cooper (Mark L. Kroon), a prominent member of a gated community in Schaumburg, is arrested for the attempted murder of Peter Lambert (Vince LiFonti) and the accidental death of innocent bystander Dean Palan.  But Max says that he did not know that the  bullets in the gun were real, and that someone, possibly his wife Savannah (Nya Watkins), could have switched the blanks for the real thing!

In this serio-comic drama, directed by Jane Allyson, the action takes place entirely in the courtroom. Attorneys for the defense (Leah Cozad and Jessica Moen) have to convince a jury (12 random members of the audience) of Cooper's innocence. However, they are up against a strong prosecution team (Linda Sak, Neeraj Mehta and Dawn Schwartz) who are more than happy to send Max up the river.

The audience is immersed in the entire production. From the beginning, where TV reporter Rudi Oliver (Megan Campbell) broadcasts live from the hallway where the audience waits to enter the theater to the trial itself, you feel like you are actually in the courtroom.  If you are one of the lucky ones chosen for the jury, as Count and I were, you become a very important part of the play - the one who makes the ultimate decision of Max Cooper's fate. After everyone is seated in the theater, the baliff (Carla Lewandowski) opens the production in typical courtroom fashion. Lewandowski also serves as hostess throughout the play instructing the audience about theater etiquette and break time. Then enters Wally Cwik (that bears a striking resemblance to horror icon Christopher ”Dracula” Lee) who is perfectly cast as the stern yet fair judge.

The interaction and chemistry between the cast members was excellent, each person seemed to have his or her own quirk which made for some side laughs during the show. Standouts included Vince LiFonti as an appropriately evil and smarmy Peter Lambert, Nya Watkins as the sultry but obnoxious Savannah Cooper, Linda Sak as the determined lead prosecutor Deena Lane and Jessica Moen as the sarcastic defense attorney Terry Stone. For Count and myself, the most memorable perfomances were by those who were cast in multiple roles, including Megan Campbell, Joe Bonadonna and Cheryl Mercy. Mercy's extraordinary performance as witness Carrie Brubaker even evoked the spirit of  "Mama" Thelma Harper of  "Mama's Family"

Both Count and I (and our friends who attended the show with us) enjoyed the play thoroughly. We give "The State vs. Max Cooper" a rousing **TWO FANGS UP**  and highly recommend that you go see this play in its final weekend May 17-19th.

The James Downing Theatre is located at 6740 N. Oliphant, Chicago, IL 60631

Running May 4 - May 19, 2013

Friday - Saturday 7:30PM
Sunday 1:30PM

For more info and to purchase tickets, call 224-725-3696 for advance reservations and to inquire about becoming a part of the jury.

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