TRIAL - A deep, dark rabbit hole of celestial bureaucracy.

Ashley Griffin as Arcadia, George Drance as Mr. Olin and Ryan Clardy as Valentine in Ashley Griffin's Trial

Review by: Ramona Maben

Trial, Ashley Griffin's newest creation, inspired by a true story, navigates through a deep, dark rabbit hole of celestial bureaucracy. 

Exposing situations of integrity, justice, and their opposites, Trial demands answers surrounding the human condition.

Griffin has written a tour-de-force unveiling an age-old travesty. She has her finger on the pulse of the psychological woes of abuse. Simultaneously and unabashedly she peels away all pretense and illusion, in a dimension that negates space and time. 

Ashley Griffin as 15 year old Arcadia exploded in a plethora of sadness, fear and righteous indignation. A whirlwind of emotional torment, she brilliantly portrayed the myriad stages of psychological, emotional anguish and discovery.

Ashley Griffin as Arcadia in Trial
Set in a modern day celestial courthouse, Arcadia's case has been on hold for several years. Celestial justice has its own timing.

When in the waiting room of eternity Arcadia had a few funny interchanges with the voice of a female clerk. An arriving soul, the "Woman" was effortlessly played by Jennifer Bareilles. The Woman, a bit put off by her "new" circumstance and reticent in interacting with Arcadia; hurriedly left the room as her number was read. 

Finally Arcadia's number was called and a trial scheduled, but she vehemently refused to go. Consigned as judge and jury of her predator Richard Evans, now they must face each other. Not wanting to relive the pain and revive the horrible past, Arcadia only wanted to ascend and be done. 

The Celestial court was not pleased. Positive or negative, the inability to address her death was prohibited. A job must be done. Issues discussed. Truths uncovered. Lives inspected. Judgments made. Souls to be damned. A true bureaucracy.

The awaited day approached and the room became a literal square off. What began as a complex issue deepened. Nothing was as it appeared and all must abide the otherworldly regulations.

Gisela Adisa as Lucy and Ryan Clardy as Valentine in Ashley Griffin's Trial
Gisela Adisa as Lucy wonderfully captured and hurled a terrifying essence that only hints at what truly lies within. Lucy was strictly business and much more than she appeared. Her professional demeanor belied a seething rage. The overwhelming lust for Evans’ soul was palpable. Lucy's aggressive body language, blazing eye contact and scalding vocal tonality was frightening. Her being and intention expertly concealed, broached, and then finally explosively revealed in wrathful accusatory tones. The choice of Lucy's wardrobe however was askew, her white dress not quite covering up the blood red strap underneath.

Ryan Clardy as Valentine and Ashley Griffin as Arcadia in Trial
Ryan Clardy as Valentine gave great depth and vigilance in his portrayal of a trapped soul. Divulging the meanings of life and death; he tried to give Arcadia wisdom and knowledge in exposing her true dilemma. He was the torch Arcadia desperately needed to transverse her dark emotional abyss. Conversely, Clardy's lawyer persona was unconvincing; maybe intentionally so. It was though being the prosecutor was just a means to an end.

George Drance as Mr. Olin in Ashley Griffin's Trial
George Drance beautifully and elegantly portrayed Mr. Olin as the inquisitive, exacting, soul searching defense. Composed with a gentle demeanor, Olin is not to be taken lightly. More concerned with Arcadia's perceptions than defending Evans, Olin's method of inquiry steered Arcadia into unearthing her truth. 

Malcolm Stephenson as Richard and Jennifer Bareilles as Margaret in Ashley Griffin's Trial
Malcolm Stephenson as Richards Evans performed with such toxic precision that his character's redeeming qualities were nil. Narcissistic, egotistic and violent, Evans’ denial of any responsibility and the pathological need to always be right lead to his ultimate downfall.

The younger Arcadia was portrayed stunningly by showing us the beginning of her spiral into uncertainty and sadness.

Throughout the performance characters were invisibly "pulled" into metamorphosing as different people. 

Bareilles' excellence in morphing from character to character was wondrous to witness. All of her personas were highly individual, indicating her true ability as a diverse actress. Just a facial expression and twist of the lip turned her from the "Woman" into Arcadia's mother. No match for the earthly court system or her domineering spouse and unable to stop her husband from obtaining full custody of Arcadia. 

Jennifer Bareilles as Margaret and Ashley Griffin as Arcadia in Trial
George Drance morphed into Arcadia's most beloved teacher, Mr. Lewis. An excitable, creative mind this academic artist inspired and championed Arcadia's love of writing.

Lori Petty (Director) knew less is more. The usage of three entrances/exits further cemented Arcadia's entrapment. The brilliant gesture of being "pulled,” showed characters being changed, moved and encapsulated in time. With sensitivity, Petty extracted the child from the most odious scenes while maintaining subject matter integrity. Allowing for full character development, Petty then turned up the flames, the passions of each thespian scorching us towards awareness.

Traci Bargen (Stage Manager) ensured that the stage evolved in cohesion with the subject matter. At first we saw covered furniture and a white floor; a bland, sterile non threatening environ. As the scene progressed into the court, just removing the coverings quickly transformed the space. The set then became a heavy, lethal terrain filled with the spirits of past, present and future.

Malcolm Stephenson as Richard and George Drance as Mr. Olin in Ashley Griffin's Trial
Trial is ultimately about you, your decisions and free will. Facing the inner demons and fighting the good fight. One must honestly access and examine life and understand that true power lies within. You can treat yourself kindly or destroy yourself. As Valentine desperately tells Arcadia, "You killed you!"

(In order of appearance)
Arcadia......................Ashley Griffin
Woman/Margaret.......Jennifer Bareilles
Valentine...................Ryan Clardy
Lucy………………...........Gisela Adisa
Richard Evans……......Malcolm Stephenson
Mr. Olin/Mr. Lewis...George Drance
Understudy...............Malloree Hill

Creative Team
Writer...................Ashley Griffin
Director.................Lori Petty
Assistant Director...Madeline O'Hara
Production SM.....Traci Bargen
Asst SM...............Robert Peatman
Lighting Design….Jennifer-Elizabeth Cooper
Photos..................Brian E. Long

Produced by THML Theater Company
Previous readings produced by MTC, The Ivy Theater Company, Red Fern Theater Company and Dreamcatcher Entertainment

TRIAL runs at the American Theater of Actors through January 28th. For tickets please visit:



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