Conceived and Directed by: Tyler Thomas
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
With the 2020 election happening as this review is being written, with the formal “election day” only seventeen days away, the intricacies of, and flaws within, the American electoral system are at the forefront of a national conversation. Chief among these hot-button issues is voter disenfranchisement. Questions of who can vote, who has access to secure voting, and what barriers interfere with civic duty are tantamount to understanding America’s current sociopoltical state.
Immersed in this cultural climate, audiences will be immediately compelled by Why Would I Dare: The Trial of Crystal Mason. Available via RSVP on the Rattlestick website, this timely work is a fantastic piece of theatre. Utilizing a well-edited Zoom-style format, this play brings to life the court transcript of Crystal Mason, who cast her ballot in Texas in 2016. In Texas, people with felony convictions are legally banned from voting, and Ms. Mason had pled guilty to felony charges in 2011. Her ballot was disqualified and her vote was never counted. She was unaware she was barred from voting after her release from prison. Still, Ms. Mason was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to another five years in prison.
Using the court transcripts of this case, director Tyler Thomas masterfully guides a brilliant cast (Crystal Dickinson, Peter Gerety, Peter Mark Kendall, Marin Ireland, and Shane MacRae) through the intricacies of Ms. Mason’s time on the witness stand at her trial. Despite the remote format, this cast brings the audience into the courtroom. Tensions are high, flagrant biases (both personal and systemic) are on full display, and the result is thoughtful gut-punch of an experience that lays bare the need for judicial and electoral reform in America.
This cast is nothing short of masterful in bringing this unbelievable court case to the screen. Under Thomas’ perfectly measured direction, Why Would I Dare: The Trial of Crystal Mason is a must-watch for this election season.
Available Online | Photo Credit: Rattlestick Playwrights Theater