‘Night of January 16th’ in San Dimas

Ayn Rand’s play “The Night of January 16th” will be showing in San Dimas, California (near San Bernardino) for the next few weekends. It looks like a very enjoyable production, too:

Most people today try to dodge jury duty. But in 1935, people were more than willing to do the job.
That was especially evident when “Night of January 16″ hit Broadway the same year. The drama/comedy/murder mystery allowed audience members, even women, to submit their names on paper to possibly be selected to sit on the jury during the performance. The jury decided whether the defendant, Karen Andre, did or did not murder her incredibly wealthy but very mean boss/lover. So, the show has two possible endings.

The same is true for the Alliance for Performing Arts and The Place Theatre production of the play, which debuts Friday night in the fellowship hall of San Dimas Community Church.

“The real nice thing about this is we get it over in one night,” director Melinda Brasch said, jokingly referring to how long court cases take these days.

The theater company has transformed the fellowship hall into a 1930s courtroom. Guests are encouraged to wear 1930s apparel (they’ll get $2 off their ticket prices if they do). Witnesses will be seated among audience members. The jury will be sequestered during intermission and fed snacks.

“Night of January 16,” written by Ayn Rand, takes the audience on a journey through the fateful night in question. It is built in such a way that the evidence of the defendant’s guilt or innocence is evenly balanced and the decision will have to be based on the juror’s own feelings toward the case, Brasch said.

The actors in this performance have to be very careful to do their jobs convincingly. If one of the them has to cry, it better look real, or else the jury could decide that person was faking it. Each night could bring about a different verdict.

“If someone happens to screw up, it changes what the jury thinks,” said Randy Merritt, 46, of La Verne, who plays defense attorney Stevens. Keep reading…

When: 8 Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m Sundays through Oct. 31
Where: The Place Theatre, San Dimas Community Church fellowship hall, 216 San Dimas Ave., San Dimas
Tickets: $15 general, $12 seniors/students
Information: (909) 596-8811

Additional information about this performance and the group sponsoring it are available on the San Bernadino Sun web site.