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'8' on stage: Can George Clooney play a brilliant lawyer?

March 5, 2012 |  6:05 pm

George Clooney
Why, yes, he can. On Saturday night, a cast that was repeatedly called "star-studded" performed a dramatic reading of the play "8," which is more or less an excerpting of the transcripts of the federal trial on Proposition 8. Star-drenched would be more accurate.

My mother's theory was that the quality of any dramatic production tends to be inversely proportional to the number of big names in it, and more often than not, I think that holds. Fortunately, from where I sat, "8" was, for the most part, the exception. Not because the acting was necessarily special but because so many of the lines were. What makes that all the more exceptional is that most of the lines were taken straight from the transcript of the trial.

I certainly had read about the trial avidly while it was going on, but there is indeed something different about seeing it played out, even if that's an enactment. I sat there wondering, did that proponent of Proposition 8 really say something so easily picked apart? Or was the play, more likely, playing for cheap shots? After the play, I spent hours checking several out of the play's exchanges on the Internet. Yes, they were real. Perhaps they stood out more because the play only touched highlights -- although if there were any highlights that made Proposition 8's presentation look good, they were omitted.

Thankfully, the actors played it simply for the most part, letting the essential material shine through, and that includes Clooney, playing the celebrated litigator David Boies, who managed to turn the defense's single witness into more of a witness for the plaintiffs.

The least effective scenes didn't come from the trial transcripts. Those were little side dramas between the lesbian plaintiff mothers (played by Christine Lahti and Jamie Lee Curtis) and their two sons.  The scenes rang a little sappy and false to me.

But you can decide for yourself. The entire play is on YouTube for a few more days. (For some strange reason, it starts at 29:51).

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--Karin Klein 

Photo: George Clooney, left, Martin Sheen and Brad Pitt are shown in a scene from the play "8," at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. Credit: Jason Merrit / Getty Images for the American Foundation for Equal Rights

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