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Paulanne Simmons

It Takes One to Know One:
Attorney Henry Miller on Clarence Darrow


"All Too Human: An Evening with Clarence Darrow"
Written and performed by Henry Miller
45th Street Theatre
354 West 45th St. between 8th and 9th avenues
Opened Nov. 5, 2006
Wed. thru Sat. 8 p.m., Sat. & Sun. matinees 3 p.m.
$55, student tickets $25 (212) 868-4444 or Smarttix.com
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Nov. 25, 2006

We've all heard about actors who moonlight as bartenders and waiters. Henry Miller is an actor who moonlights as a lawyer, or perhaps a lawyer who moonlights as an actor. Previous work includes "James Joyce Comes Home" and "Alger: a Story." But it is in his current one-man show, "All Too Human: An Evening with Clarence Darrow," that Miller makes use of both his acting and trial skills.

The play takes its title from a line spoken by Darrow at the end of his trial for jury-bribing. Darrow, who pleaded guilty, nevertheless confessed to many of the failings that blight humanity. Indeed Miller does not shy away from portraying Darrow as a man guilty of occasional infidelity, a certain pomposity and laziness. "I'd do anything for labor," Darrow says, "except engage in it."

None of the above, however, prevents Darrow from emerging as a great man, a defender of the poor and the powerless ("When we give ten cents to a beggar, all we're doing is buying a little relief for ourselves"), an enemy of capital punishment (one of the main reasons he defended Leopold and Loeb was to prevent the young boys from being hanged) and an intellect (Darrow quotes Twain, Tolstoy and Samuel Johnson, among others).

The play traces Darrow's life from his childhood in the Midwest (his father, who read Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine; and his mother who believed in women's rights before the rest of the country, seem to have been somewhat eccentric for their time) to his early career in Chicago and through his most famous cases (Eugene V. Debs, the McNamara brothers, Leopold and Loeb, the Scopes trial).

If "All Too Human" were merely a history lesson, however, it would not be of much theatrical interest. Fortunately, Miller, who walks onstage with a rumpled gray suit, has a folksy style and casual delivery, punctuated by passion and compassion, that make Darrow into a very human figure, larger than life and full of life.

The verisimilitude is enhanced by Chris Jones's set, half courtroom, half study, which gives Miller a chance to orate before a jury or chat with the audience. One would like to see Miller in action in a real court almost as much one would have liked to have seen Darrow when he was alive.

One-man shows about famous people can easily become boring or pedantic. Miller makes Darrow and his times fascinating.

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