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7th Monarch

Jim Henry's compelling thriller revolves around a troubled woman who comes under investigation for the possible murder of her parents.

Leslie Hendrix and Michael Rupert
in 7th Monarch
(© Carol Rosegg)
Mystery, suspense, and detailed characterizations combine to make Jim Henry's 7th Monarch, at Theatre Row's Acorn Theater, a compelling thriller. And while the script utilizes some familiar tropes that make it rather easy to imagine it as a film, there's a certain satisfaction in seeing it play out on stage, particularly in Scott C. Embler's finely acted production.

The story revolves around Miriam Hemmerick (Gretchen Hall), a troubled woman who lives alone in her parents' Indiana home. She comes under scrutiny when criminal investigator Raina Briar (Leslie Hendrix) pays a visit to look into potential fraud, as Raina has been signing and cashing her parents' social security checks.

Neophyte lawyer Grey Collins (Matthew Humphreys) is assigned as her public defender on a case that quickly also becomes a murder investigation, as its difficult to get a coherent answer from Miriam as to the fate of her parents. Rounding out the cast of characters is Kenneth Sharpe (Michael Rupert), a judge who hopes to use the publicity surrounding this case to boost his chances for re-election, and Leo Garnes (Michael Cullen), a police detective on the brink of retirement who also becomes involved.

As the play progresses, Raina develops a bond with the mentally off-balance Miriam, who proves to have a remarkable photographic memory that allows her to access details she's read in phone books, newspapers, and other sources almost instantaneously. The ability amazes, annoys, and sometimes angers the other characters, who do not necessarily want her finding out too much about their lives.

Hall conveys Miriam's agitation and peculiar mannerisms without going so far as to make it unbelievable. Hendrix delivers a layered, and emotionally resonant performance that kicks into high gear in the second act as we learn more about the life Raina has tried to leave behind, but continues to haunt her.

Humphreys brings an appropriate sweetness to his role as Grey, while Cullen has such a strong presence that he makes his fairly minor role riveting whenever he comes onto the stage. Rupert avoids making Sharpe too oily, while not shying away from the character's less endearing traits.

The design of the production is solid, with particularly strong work from David Pinkard, whose sound design and original composition help to keep the tension levels ratcheted up at key moments.


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