The audience determines the final outcome of the courtroom drama “Night of January 16th.”
Members of the “jury” are picked from the audience to participate in the Sun City Community Players’ production, which opens Friday at Mountain View Recreation Center Auditorium. Depending on the verdict, the cast performs one of two endings.
Joyce Hutchins, director of “Night of January 16th,” said she’s excited that people will have the opportunity to participate in the play along with the actors.
“I think people would love to go on stage and not have to learn any lines,” Hutchins said.
Each performance should be unique.
“You really don’t know what’s going to happen, and I think that keeps both our audience and the cast alert at all times,” Hutchins said.
The drama follows the trial of Karen Andre, a secretary accused of killing her boss and lover, Bjorn Faulkner. The purpose of the play also is to determine whether the crime could be considered a murder or suicide.
During three acts, two lawyers call upon a number of witnesses, including doctors, a security guard and a notorious gangster to testify, but they all have contradictory stories.
“Night of January 16th” debuted on Broadway during the 1935-1936 season and became a hit. A subsequent film in 1960 premiered but received little attention and garnered mostly negative reviews from film critics.
Hutchins said the Sun City Players believe their audiences will enjoy the intrigue and mystery of the drama that features a cast of 22 actors.
“So many people love ‘Law & Order’ and all of these other crime shows that we know this will appeal to many folks here,” Hutchins said.
Elanna Donovan, who portrays Karen Andre, said she’s excited for the audience to participate in the show.
Donovan said her character has been a major challenge and can’t wait for the “jury” to determine whether she’s guilty or innocent.
“It’s such a hard part because there aren’t many lines, and your body language has to do most of the talking for this play,” Donovan said.
And Hutchins, who has played Karen Andre in a previous production, said body language is all that matters.
“Depending on how I did the role that night, I kind of knew how the ‘jury’ would vote for that particular show,” Hutchins said. “But honestly, I think that’s why the play is so interesting because you just never know how it’s going to go.”