Great Lakes builds winning case with ‘Witness for the Prosecution’

February 19, 2019 GMT

Great Lakes builds winning case with ‘Witness for the Prosecution’

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The evidence is overwhelming. The verdict is clear. Great Lakes Theater is guilty of staging a marvelously entertaining production of Agatha Christie’s craftily plotted 1953 courtroom murder mystery, “Witness for the Prosecution.”

The scene of the crime drama is the Hanna Theatre, where this bloody good cast will be getting away with murder through March 10.

Judiciously directed at every intriguing turn by Great Lakes producing artistic director Charles Fee, this “Witness for the Prosecution” moves at a delightfully brisk pace on scenic designer Gage Williams’ impressive Old Bailey set. Indeed, in many ways, this handsome yet classically unpretentious set typifies the entire production.

It’s straightforward. It’s sturdy. It’s elegant.

Fee and his team convincingly build their case by relying on performances refreshingly free of mannered moments, self-indulgent artifice and melodramatic flourishes. Those are not uncommon complaints with adaptations of Christie’s stories. The clueless ones, whether on stage, screen or television, fall into the trap of actors playing their roles as if they’re all-too-aware of being in a mystery.


No such objections can be raised with this “Witness for the Prosecution.” We invest fully in these life-and-death proceedings because the commitment is total to the complex psychological character work that’s a Christie speciality. Ignore that at your own peril.

“Crime is terribly revealing,” Christie said. “Try and vary your methods as you will, your tastes, your habits, your attitude of mind, and your soul is revealed by your actions.”

Dame Agatha, the mystery genre’s “Queen of Crime,” got more than enough credit for her intricate and clever plots. It’s criminal, though, that the writer wasn’t as well recognized for her superbly drawn characters. She was a first-rate observer of human nature, and, without that, those clever plots would have gone nowhere.

Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Aled Davies), right, addresses the jury while the clerk of the court (Andy Nagraj), left, and Mr. Justice Wainwright (David Anthony Smith) listen to his arguments in the Great Lakes Theater’s production of Agatha Christie’s “Witness for the Prosecution.”  Roger Mastroianni/Great Lakes Theater

And “Witness for the Prosecution,” which started life as a short story, is positively packed with great characters.

Leonard Vole (Taha Mandviwala) is an easygoing young man accused of murdering wealthy widow Emily French. Things look bad for likable Leonard. The victim had recently changed her will, leaving him the bulk of her considerable fortune.


Leonard had means, opportunity and one glittering motive, but he proclaims his innocence. His only alibi is his wife, Romaine (Jodi Dominick), who is as stern and off-putting as Leonard is affable and charming. Leonard says Romaine will testify that he was at home at the time of the murder.

It’s not much to go on, but Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Aled Davies), is convinced that Leonard is telling truth. He agrees to take his case.

Make plans to attend Leonard’s trial. You’ll be a grateful witness to uniformly strong performances and many a grand surprise. That’s the whole truth and nothing but the truth.


Witness for the Prosecution

What: Agatha Christie’s 1953 courtroom murder mystery; directed by Charles Fee.

When: Through March 10.

Where: Great Lakes Theater at Playhouse Square’s Hanna Theatre

Tickets: $15 - $80 (Students $13); call 216-241-6000 or visit

Approximate running time: 2 and a half hours (including intermission).