Clarence Darrow was an American lawyer who defended the underdog and was known for opposing the death penalty. David Rintels wrote a solo play about Darrow, where the lawyer details his career and life. In the Calgary Fringe Festival, Brian Jenson plays Darrows and is measured and solid in his performance. It’s a fascinating narrative and even if you think you’ve never heard of Clarence Darrows, chances are you’ve heard of the Scopes Monkey Trial. Darrows fought prejudice within the system, and his career and story are worth knowing. But the narrative doesn’t go beyond Darrow’s career and life. It doesn’t really add more to it.
On a stage filled with filing boxes, probably with the cases of his life Clarence Darrow (Jensen) tells us about his career and life. His first girlfriend and their child and how they drifted apart. The many cases he took on because he knew he had to. When he was on trial himself, defending himself. Jensen carries the narrative squarely on his shoulders and this is a role devised especially for him, while director Caleb Gordon makes sure he doesn’t rush through any of the play.
The play just doesn’t go so far as to bring in the emotion of today. It’s a snapshot of an admirable life in a time not so long ago. It almost doesn’t stretch itself to make commentary on what’s going on in the world today and how it isn’t that much different than what was going on then.
Clarence Darrow is part of the Calgary Fringe Festival. It plays 3 more times in the festival. More information is available online.