What do lawyers think of a play that takes place entirely in a courtroom?
Well, the verdicts were mixed.
Last, night, the Friends of the Kennedy Center's Lawyers' Committee made up much of the preview audience of "Outrage," a play that officially opens tonight at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater.
The play is about a man who becomes so frustrated with the judicial system that he takes the law into his own hands and murders the man who raped and killed his daughter. His trial is the play. The audience is the jury.
"It was like Criminal Law 35," said Neil Krugman, Chapel Hill law school graduate and Capitol Hill lobbyist, after the play. "It was one long harangue, mitigated by the fact they were good actors. It was just like my class in criminal law."
After the play and a 15-minute question-and-answer period, Krugman and about 150 other guests drove or were bused from the Kennedy Center to dinner at the new Sichuan Pavilion restaurant, where the food got at least as many, if not more, raves than the actors' performances.
L. Bruce Laingen, former U.S. charge d'affaires to Iran, liked the performance, "but I'm not a lawyer," he was quick to point out. He gave the play a "magnificent" before turning to the open bar.
Joseph E. di Genova, principal assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, was somewhat guarded in his remarks and gave a polite answer.
"It was interesting," he said and then opened up. "It's a little overwrought, but that's okay, if you're trying to make a point and trying to educate someone."
And that was precisely Henry Denker's intention.
"It has little to do with victims' rights," said lawyer/author/play-wright Denker, describing his work. "It has to do with people fighting the system. But because the public is resorting to violence, I wrote it to put the courts on notice."
Some people thought it was about victims' rights anyway.
Gaye Denis, a member of the Roper Committee, an organization formed after the murder of Stephanie Ann Roper to push legislation on behalf of crime victims, said she was the first to stand for the small ovation after the curtain went down. "I wanted to stand up and applaud at least five or six times during the performance... I'd like to see it performance in every law school in the country," she said.