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Suspense, a man fighting for his life, and a wife with ulterior motives — “Witness for the Prosecution” has all of these. And because the play is being staged in the round, the audience will be right in the middle of the action.


PHOTO BY DICK TRTEK - In a rehearsal photo, Leonard (Aaron Filyaw) confronts his wife (Faye Levinsohn) about her testimony during 'Witness for the Prosecution,' opening May 1 at the Milwaukie Masonic Lodge. The courtroom drama, by murder mystery queen Agatha Christie, opens May 1 to finish off the season of performances by Milwaukie-based New Century Players.

And for the first time, the production will be presented at the Milwaukie Masonic Lodge on Main Street.

“We received a grant from the Clackamas County Cultural Coalition for $2,400, which covers 90 percent of the rental of the space for us. We wanted to do the show there. The upstairs meeting room lends itself to the story, because the play takes place in a law office and a courtroom,” said Kelley Marchant, NCP artistic director.

Director Ron Palmblad said he has always enjoyed courtroom drama and good murder mysteries, and added, “Agatha Christie’s intriguing story and wonderful characters make this a joy to be involved in.”

The plot revolves around Leonard Vole, a young man who became friends with an elderly wealthy woman, and who now is accused of her murder. His devoted wife, Romaine, is his only alibi, and when she takes the stand for the prosecution her loyalty to him is suddenly in question, Palmblad said.

Because the play is set in England, the actors needed to speak with British accents. Fortunately, two of the cast members, Faye Levinsohn and Kevin Yell, are both from England and have helped “with the dialects and everything U.K.,” Palmblad said.

“We are fortunate to have a wonderfully talented group of actors to perform this show. Their dedication to the script and willingness to tackle the dialects makes my job as director much easier,” he said.

Palmblad added, “The audience will enjoy the unusual venue and the close proximity to the action. They will very much feel like a fly on the wall.”

Sympathetic character

Aaron Filyaw describes Leonard, his character in the play, as “kind of a down-on-his-luck, lower-class guy who is accused of the murder of Emily French. He’s very affable, approachable and someone who the audience, hopefully, sympathizes with as he’s put on trial.”

Vole also is very intelligent, and Filyaw said he likes how his character is “able to adapt to whatever or whomever he’s around. Regardless of his social standing, he always finds a way to handle whatever situation he’s thrown into.”

Right from the start, Filyaw needed to figure out what kind of British accent to use. But after talking with Palmblad about his character, it was apparent that Vole was undoubtedly from a more working-class background, “so we settled on an East End, ‘Cockney’ accent which has been quite challenging to nail down.”

His favorite scenes are the ones when all the witnesses are testifying, he said, adding, that it is fun “trying to decide who’s lying or who’s telling the truth.”

What will audiences like best about “Witness for the Prosecution”?

“Everyone loves a great thriller, and Agatha Christie writes such smart and memorable dialogue. I think audiences really gravitate toward her work because she writes such engrossing, suspenseful mysteries and ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ is no different,” Filyaw said.

He added, “We’re performing in the Milwaukie Masonic Lodge, which is such a cool space for this production because, as an audience member, you actually feel like you’re part of the jury for the trial. It’s going to be a really unique experience, and I think audiences will love it.”

‘Stoic lady

In addition to helping the cast with their British accents, Levinsohn is playing the challenging role of Leonard’s wife, Romaine. The irony here is that Romaine is a first-generation German immigrant, so must speak with a German accent.

“She is a seemingly very stoic lady with lots of layers. There is a lot going on under her tough exterior,” Levinsohn said.

“Agatha Christie has given her some truly great lines. I think people will love to hate her, and I rarely get to play someone like her. The hardest thing is keeping all her underlying motives in mind when maintaining her outward composure. She’s extremely complex and calculating,” she added.

Levinsohn’s favorite moment in the play is her first scene, when she establishes the importance of her character to the plot.

“She turns everything upside-down from the get-go, and working with Kraig Williams, as Mr. Mayhew, and Greg Prosser, as Sir Wilfred, on that scene has been a real treat. She’s a lot of fun to play.”

She added, “This is a show people will enjoy. It’s a true murder mystery with so many twists and turns. It really will keep you guessing until the very end. You never know what might happen.”

Trial by jury

What: New Century Players presents “Witness for the Prosecution”

When: 7:30 p.m. May 1, 2, 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16; 3 p.m. May 10 and 17

Where: The Milwaukie Masonic Lodge, 10636 S.E. Main St.

Details: $18 for adults, $12 for seniors and students. To purchase tickets, call 503-367-2620 or visit newcenturyplayers.org.

More: Cast members include Allison Andresen, Danny Caputo, Todd Carlson, Arleen Daugherty, Aaron Filyaw, Elisabeth Goebel, Doug Jacobs, Patrick John, Virginia Kincaid, Jo Strom Lane, Brandee Leibrand, Faye Levinsohn, Greg Prosser, Redmond Reams, Glenn Russell, Kevin Singletary, Kraig Williams and Kevin Yell.

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