Render Your Own Verdict On This Case Barnstormers' Courtroom Drama About A Slaying Invites Audience Participation.

Posted: January 26, 1995

RIDLEY PARK — When you hear the words jury duty, do you fret about lost pay, ruined plans and long periods of cloistered boredom?

Fret no more because beginning tomorrow you will have the chance to be a juror in a deliciously scandalous murder trial without suffering a moment of inconvenience. The Barnstormers Theater production of Ayn Rand's The Night of January 16th is a courtroom drama that lets selected audience members render the verdict on an accused murderer.

Just write your name on a slip of paper as you enter the theater, attend a performance of the play and hope that you are one of six people called to

serve before the "trial" begins. The play opens at 8 p.m. tomorrow and runs for two weeks.

But be warned. Deciding the accused's fate will not be easy, said Barnstormers director Anthony De Joseph. There is plenty of compelling evidence in the case, and "it's very well-balanced," he said.

The Night of January 16th was written as an interactive play. De Joseph said it was Rand's purpose to "get into the minds of the audience, to reveal the jury's mind more than the guilt or innocence of Karen Andre."

Set in 1935, the drama focuses on the trial of Andre, who is accused of killing Bjorn Faulkner, her boss and lover. Andre pleads not guilty, saying Faulkner was planning to fake suicide to run away with her and $10 million he embezzled from his tycoon father-in-law, John Graham Whitfield.

Her defense says it was Whitfield who killed Faulkner, pushing him from the penthouse of the Whitfield Building, the tallest skyscraper in New York, after discovering the getaway plan.

There is one problem in the case, though. The body found on the pavement cannot be positively identified, and at least one witness says it was not Faulkner. He is Larry Regan, a two-bit criminal, who loves Andre and comes to her defense.

The dilemma for the jurors will be to decide which of the witnesses is more credible - Whitfield or Regan, De Joseph said. Is the blue-blood pillar of society lying? Is the no-good gangster telling the truth?

Faulkner himself is intriguing, De Joseph said. Rand based the character on a Swedish industrialist, "a Donald Trump or a Howard Hughes type," who made some unwise business choices and ruined his financial empire, he said.

"Faulkner made his own rules in life. He was sort of outside of society," De Joseph said. Because of Rand's belief in individualism, "he would probably be her hero," he said.

The Night of January 16th is a three-act play, but it will be performed in two acts with one intermission. There are 17 cast members, most of whom make up the "wonderfully colorful characters who testify," De Joseph said.

The actor who plays the judge in the case is a trial lawyer by profession, he said.

Barnstormers president George Pellegrino said the theater performed The Night of January 16th many years ago. He said he expected the revival to be well-attended.

"People have been calling me and asking if they can be on the jury," Pellegrino said. "I tell them they've got to come down and put their name in."

IF YOU GO

Where: Ward and Tome Streets in Ridley Park.

When: Tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 3, 4, 10 and 11; all performances at 8 p.m.

Cost: $8 for adults, $3 for those under 18.

Phone: 610-461-9969.

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