‘Conviction’ Is A Must-See Show

Sarah Paulson and Garret Dillahunt in a scene from "Conviction."  Photo by  Jerry Lamonica, courtesy Bay Street Theater.

Sarah Paulson and Garret Dillahunt in a scene from “Conviction.”
Photo by Jerry Lamonica, courtesy Bay Street Theater.

They say that a good boyfriend is one who messes up your lipstick, while a bad one messes up your mascara. Well, “Conviction” would be a very, very bad boyfriend. But it’s a very, very, VERY good show. I seriously LOVED it!

Written by Carey Crim and directed by Scott Schwartz, the drama tells the nightmare story of a much-loved teacher who is accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with a student, and the heavy toll it takes on him, his family and friends. The show makes its world premiere on the Bay Street Theater stage in Sag Harbor and stars Sarah Paulson, Garret Dillahunt, Brian Hutchison, Elizabeth Reaser and Daniel Burns.

Not only is “Conviction” masterfully written (not one false word or note here), the play is brilliantly staged and gut-wrenchingly, truthfully told. I was immediately hooked from the very first moments and never stopped being drawn (completely sucked in, actually) to the compelling story as it unfolded. Most importantly, I believed every single word that came from Sarah Paulson’s and Garret Dillanhunt’s mouths. These two pulled more tears out of me than I’ve shed in the past year. They were magnificent.

I’ve followed Paulson’s career with great interest for many years (from back to her “American Gothic” days to her more recent work in “American Horror Story”) and am in particular awe of her talent. She does not disappoint here. Every second that she’s onstage is nuanced. But more importantly, she’s so “tuned in” in every single moment that it seems as if the tragedy is actually happening to her, in real life, for the very first time. I did not see even a slight beat where she wasn’t Leigh, the wife of the accused man.

As Tom, the teacher whose life is turned upside down, Dillahunt is more than convincing. What a happy surprise to see this actor, who stars in the sitcom “Raising Hope” with East Ender Martha Plimpton, stretch his stage legs. Even though he’s appeared in “No Country for Old Men” and “12 Years A Slave,” I didn’t know know about his serious dramatic cred. I do now. Man, he was good. I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

What a treat it was to also see Brian Hutchison again on the Bay Street stage–he was in the “Men’s Lives” revival in 2012. Casting him as best friend Bruce was perfect. He was likable, believable, natural and deftly struck a positive balance between the heaviness of the situation and the goodness that we all hope to experience in our lives. I want to see more of him on stage and on screen.

Elizabeth Reaser is another one whose career I’ve been following for about a decade. I positively loved her the most in “The Family Stone,” with our very own Sarah Jessica Parker, and as Jane Doe/Ava/ Rebecca Pope back in the day on “Grey’s Anatomy.” It was interesting to see her in a new light–especially as she played a character who self-identified as the voice of reason whose beliefs are turned on their heads. Not an easy job, but certainly necessary to the action. I was glad to see her work in person.

Applause to Daniel Burns for fully committing. His portrayal of angsty teenager Nick was heartbreaking and convincing. Well done. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Lastly, I just have to say that the set by Anna Louizos was really something. I don’t want to give it away but there was a reveal at the end of the first act that blew me away. BRAVO.

Congratulations on a stupendous first one out of the gate to Bay Street and to Artistic Director Scott Schwartz. This play has legs. You must go see it.

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