(L.) Niki Yapo-Held as Bethany and (R.) Sylvia Kratins as Joanna
Off Broadway West Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Without Mercy, a one-act play directed by Richard D. Harder, written by the prolific playwright Patricia Milton at the Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason, through March 25.
Should the murderer of Joanna Parks’ daughter, Mercy, six years ago, be sentenced to death or given life in prison without parole? This is the question Joanna (brilliantly played by Sylvia Kratins) and surviving daughter, Bethany Matthews (an equally brilliant Niki Yapo-Held) wrestle with. But not on their own. Bethany has hired a legal advocate, Sam Sibley (a measured, believable Ian Walker), who presents the case for a plea bargain for Mercy’s killer. “Agree on a plea bargain for life in prison without parole and he’ll show you where her body is.” Who wants to opt for death and who goes for the plea bargain and why are the issues faced by mother and daughter. A difficulty is that Joanna has shown up unexpectedly at Bethany’s home with her luggage claiming to have checked out voluntarily from an alcohol rehab facility. She is not welcome. Joanna discovers that Bethany has been working with Sam behind her back, contriving, she’d say, with him to go for the plea bargain while Joanna wants revenge- death. Her words and actions cry for death.
(Below:) Ian Walker as Sam with Joanna (Sylvia Kratins)
The back and forth argument for both options is gripping. Matters concerning Mercy’s “life-style” is one of the reasons given for not wanting a trial. And Sibley quotes California’s disheartening statistics about death row prisoners and subsequent trials. Twists in the plot are jaw-dropping. Did Bethany contribute to her sister’s tragedy? Mercy’s stepfather?
In Without Mercy, Milton has written a suspenseful, heart-breaking, tightly-woven one-act in which, through her characters under Richard D. Harder’s astute direction, she raises important legal, ethical, and social questions in one’s own mind regarding life, murder, and death.
Take note of Bert Van Aalsburg’s carefully and beautifully appointed set.
Please go to www.offbroadwaywest.org for tickets and information.