Miami New Drama is the new resident theatre company at Miami Beach's Colony Theatre on Lincoln Road and is now presenting its first offering, Ferdinand Von Schirach's “Terror,” a courtroom drama that asks how many people can be killed to justify saving the lives of others.
A USAF fighter pilot, a woman, is accused of shooting down a hijacked passenger plane after being ordered not to fire. One hundred and sixty four people are killed, 50,000 others are potentially saved.
Two rows of audience members sit on three sides of the barren stage. They are courtroom spectators looking at a judge's table facing left to right and a longer table for the prosecutor, the defense attorney and the accused, facing the house. A witness chair is to the left and down stage slightly from the accused.
The audience in the house are the jurors and they will later be asked to return a verdict.
A bailiff (Gabriel Bonilla) enters and calls “All Rise” and the audience members climb to their feet. The judge, played by Maria Tucci, seats them and explains details of the coming trial. Then in turn the prosecutor and the defense attorney state their cases. Pascal Armand is the prosecutor and Peter Romano the defense attorney. The first witness, USAF Colonel Brook, played by Gregg Weiner was the officer of the day when the hijacking occurred. He explains the situation in the air and on the ground, his call upward through the chain of command asking whether the hijacked airplane should be destroyed or escorted by the accused and her wing man. He relays the answer, she should not shoot, to the pilot.
Eventually the pilot, played by Mia Maestro, testifies about her early life and the pride she feels to be a fighter pilot as only the very best pilots are selected for that role. She admits she disobeyed her orders, went hot and shot. Her argument? Better to kill a relative few than risk the death of thousands.
Rita Joe plays Mrs Meise, who relates her feelings following the death of her husband in the destroyed airliner.
The rest of the two-act piece is devoted to the philosophical arguments: how sacred is one human life? Past incidents in history, variations on shoot or not, are discussed at length.
Disclosure here that may be of interest: many years ago I was a fighter pilot and a part of the training never forgotten was choosing the correct action if, as captain of a navy destroyer accompanying a convoy, should I drop depth charges on an enemy submarine hiding beneath survivors of a ship the sub has just sunk? Yes, indeed. Kill the sub. No philosophical waffling there.
“Terror” has a strong cast with excellent resumés, some from Broadway, who handled their roles well with the exception of Pascale Armand as the prosecutor, who booted her lines with some regularity.
Not a particularly engrossing courtroom drama, “Terror” culminates with the audience being asked to vote on the accused pilot's fate. Apart from the wandering courtroom spectators there's no action on the stage for more than several minutes while ushers gather the guilty/not guilty cards and deliver them for counting. Immersion in the drama is lost and the ensuing verdict is anti-climactic.
Directed by the renowned two time Tony winner Gregory Mosher.
Given the buildup, the people involved in this opening night and the exceptional state of theater in South Florida, I expected more than a shoestring presentation.
There was a standing ovation at the curtain call, however.
“Terror” plays through Feb. 19 at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach. 1-800-211-1414. www.colonymb.org