The People vs. Scarlett James | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The People vs. Scarlett James

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The People vs. Scarlett James, 1 N Da Chamber Productions, at the Reynolds Club, University of Chicago. Playwrights Earl Harrington Jr. and Yohance Lacour demonstrate a sufficient grasp of legal jargon in their courtroom drama about a woman accused of murdering her abusive husband, but in real life a trial like this would probably take weeks, not the single day that it does in the play. And it seems very unlikely that a murder case would be decided solely on the brief testimonies of the defendant and three unreliable character witnesses.

In fact Harrington and Lacour's approach is suspect from the beginning. Given the preponderance of evidence against the wife, Scarlett James, and the biased way that the playwrights construct the flashback sequences, the judge's verdict is a foregone conclusion. And Harrington and Lacour's willingness to write off Scarlett's victimization isn't the only misogynist element in the play. What's ultimately most disheartening about it is not how little credence it gives the views of women but how seldom it even gives them voices. And it's hard to decide which is more offensive: that the play reneges on its promise to hold both the victim and the perpetrator accountable, or that the cast members pat themselves on the back during the curtain call for their smug performances. --Nick Green

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