A musical celebrating the primary three girls Supreme Court docket justices is sure to contain a variety of persistence within the face of adversity, and Tuesday’s opening evening of “Justice: A New Musical” at Marin Theatre Firm concerned extra of that than anticipated.
On a windy evening, the present was delayed by technical difficulties that shut off all however the work lights twice, as soon as in the course of the preshow speech and as soon as late within the opening quantity.
However everybody persevered, passing the time whereas the whole lot booted up once more with discussions with firm management and with the musical’s creators, MTC’s latest playwright in residence Lauren Gunderson and the longtime songwriting crew of composer Bree Lowdermilk and lyricist Kait Kerrigan.
By the point the present began up the place it left off, everybody in the home was much more invested than common in seeing the present succeed.
Named by American Theatre journal as probably the most produced playwright in america aside from Shakespeare for a number of years (tied with Lynn Nottage this season), Gunderson has had a number of performs at MTC previously, together with “I and You” and “The Catastrophist,” in addition to all three of her and Margot Melcon’s “Christmas at Pemberley” trilogy of “Pleasure and Prejudice” sequels.
Kerrigan and Lowdermilk beforehand collaborated with Gunderson on the musical “Rosie Revere, Engineer & Associates,” and Gunderson and Lowdermilk cowrote “The Wonderful Adventures of Dr. Great and Her Canine” for the Kennedy Heart. Kerrigan’s play “Father/Daughter” additionally lately performed Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre Firm.
“Justice” premiered final April at Arizona Theatre Firm (whose inventive director, Sean Daniels, was once California Shakespeare Theater’s affiliate inventive director), however in a distinct incarnation. As a substitute of Sonia Sotomayor, the third character was a fictional African American girl going by way of affirmation hearings as a Supreme Court docket nominee. MTC’s manufacturing is billed as a “continued world premiere.”
Performed with ardour and a strong voice by Stephanie Prentice, Sotomayor features at first as a narrator of kinds. The story picks up in 1993, when Ruth Bader Ginsburg joins the Supreme Court docket and Sandra Day O’Connor greets her as a welcome new colleague. Lynda DiVito exudes appropriately energetic intelligence as Ginsburg, and Karen Murphy shows gracious dignity with a contact of wry amusement as O’Connor.
The musical is under no circumstances a play-by-play of the justices’ lives and careers, neither is it notably rooted in any specific time. In 90 minutes with out intermission, it whisks by way of O’Connor and Ginsburg’s time collectively on the Supreme Court docket, then Ginsburg and Sotomayor’s, pausing right here and there to seize a selected salient second of historic significance.
Just a few of their colleagues on the Supreme Court docket are talked about. Even among the many subsequent girls justices, there’s an unnamed reference to Amy Coney Barrett and a shout-out to Ketanji Brown Jackson, however there’s no point out of Elena Kagan until I missed it.
It’s all reverent, and largely staid, nearly ceremonial. Kerrigan and Lowdermilk’s songs have a tendency towards stately anthems and pensive ballads, the liveliest amongst them being Ginsburg’s cabaret quantity about being “infamous,” delivered with gusto by DiVito.
It’s not a song-and-dance musical a lot as a stand-around-and-sing one, however director Ashley Rodbro retains issues shifting, repositioning the performers round Carlos Aceves’ grey two-story set, ringed by classical columns.
Actually, the characters themselves expertise some drama alongside the way in which. They endure horrible loss, and luxury one another as finest they will. However all that’s dealt with with stoic dignity, and maybe a music. Regardless of the occasional point out of energetic disagreements, the one trace of any friction among the many justices is liberal Ginsburg silently fuming at Republican O’Connor over her deciding vote in Bush v. Gore.
Partially that goes again to the reverence that pervades the piece, however finally the musical feels much less concerning the justices as folks than about the entire concept of social progress. That’s additionally why the latter a part of the present is so bittersweet, as a pointy rightward flip in Supreme Court docket has began unraveling as a lot of that progress as doable at a feverish tempo.
It’s a present designed greater than something to encourage a brand new technology to proceed the combat, particularly when the chances appear stacked towards them. That message is hammered residence repeatedly in pithy aphorisms and in music, and proper now it’s one which lots of people sorely want to listen to.
Sam Hurwitt is a Bay Space arts journalist and playwright. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/shurwitt.
IF YOU GO
What: “Justice: A New Musical”
The place: Marin Theatre Firm, 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley
When: By way of March 12; 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays by way of Fridays; 2 and seven:30 p.m. weekends
Admission: $25 to $65
Info: 415-388-5208, marintheatre.org
Ranking (out of 5 stars): ★★★