Lawyer/playwright Norman Shabel’s ‘engrossing’ legal drama, ‘A Class Act,’ set to run March 25-27 at Mizner Park Cultural Center
Attorney-turned-author and playwright Norman Shabel, a resident of Morristown, N.J. who resides more than half the year in Aventura, South Florida, has spent a half-century as a trial and class action lawyer.
Attorney-turned-playwright Norman Shabel.
The 85-year-old jurist who has penned novels and stories for the stage, has drawn upon his experience to fashion a “pulled from the headlines” examination of what happens when an American mega-corporation puts its own self-interest before the lives and safety of “the little people.”
“After I represented a group of people involved in a class action suit about a company that poisoned a water supply with cancer-causing chemicals,” Shabel wrote a taut, stage production based on the actual case. The production, A Class Act, received excellent reviews when it played Off-Broadway in 2016.
The show, with its taut and tense retelling of the deadly environmental tale, will be coming to Boca Raton later this month. A Class Act will be produced at the Mizner Park Cultural Center from March 25-27.
“The pandemic disaster the world is now suffering was prevalent several years ago, when I originally wrote the play, with the poison dumped in the worlds’ drinking waters by non-caring corporations whose only consideration was saving expenses in the production of their products,” Shabel said in a recent interview.
“A Class Act depicts the war-like negotiations between those corporate non-caring perpetrators and the lawyers who represent the dying public.”
The drama, crafted by the veteran attorney turned writer who received his J.D. at Rutgers, focuses on a major chemical company pouring cancer-causing waste into the water supply. A high-powered law firm brings a class action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of those impacted by the deadly situation, and whose lives are threatened by the poisonous water.
Who wins? Who loses? A Class Act, Shabel’s intriguing and timely look at the inner workings of the American justice system, will ask and possibly answer these, and other questions when the play arrives at the Mizner Park Cultural Center for a brief, but intriguing run.
Crafted as a writer of legal thrillers for the past half century, Shabel has found a niche in the same category as mystery authors John Grisham and Daniel Silva. He has been called his generation’s finest writer of dramatic thrillers and one of the most talented American legal mystery novelists ever. Fascinating, enthusiastic, eerie, brilliant: these are some words that have been used to describe the work of Norman Shabel.
Unlike such films as Erin Brockovich and A Civil Action which cover similar ground in stories of ecological pollution, this play takes place exclusively in executive conference rooms where the decisions are made. During this edgy, 90-minute drama, the audience experiences loyalty, integrity, greed, blackmail, betrayal and redemption. The cast of seven proves expert at playing these legal and corporate types.
In A Class Act, General Chemical Corporation has been pouring cancer-causing waste in the nation’s rivers for more than 40 years. Now, the firm of Alessi and Warsaw along with ace litigator Ben Donaldson, senior counsel from Block, Demitri and Philby, think they have enough evidence on behalf of their million clients for a class action suit. However, General Chemical does not admit any wrongdoing. In fact, their studies prove inconclusive as to their liability and they are not willing to settle.
The negotiations between the two sets of lawyers lead to all sorts of maneuvers on the part of the corporation’s mostly male team. Amoral Dorothy Pilsner, the beautiful, sexy corporate counsel for General Chemical who has come up before Donaldson in a California case that went badly for her, is sent by her bosses to try to blackmail two of the opponents.
However, Alessi and Warsaw’s independent medical report has just been received and appears to be a significant change. The engrossing and gripping play builds to a shocking and surprising ending, one theatergoers won’t expect.
Shabel is not just a Florida snowbird; he is also a co-counsel for 150 people involved in the sale of a 600-acre parcel of land in Orlando. He is also an investor in the project that “is now going for its approvals.”
The lawyer/author said he will be present at the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center for performances to discuss the case with audience members.
David Simson will direct A Class Act. Since moving to Florida from Philadelphia, he has directed the popular musicals Anything Goes and Nice Work If You Can Get It, as well as the acclaimed dramas Endgame, The Shadow Box and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He conceived and directed Wisdom Wonderment Rainbows, based on the poetry of his husband Tony Puma, which enjoyed two sold-out runs in South Florida.
He is currently involved in Ronnie Larsen’s Plays on Wilton, presenting staged readings of new plays. David received several fellowships to study Shakespeare at The Globe and Stratford in England and in Ashland, Ore. He had the distinction to be one of 20 American teachers selected to study The Holocaust in Poland and Israel.
Simson’s cast includes Brewer Daniels, Tom Copeland, Ken Vianale, Leslie Kandel, Bob Sharkey, Adam Carter and Tom Turner. Chloe Ward is the production’s stage manager, and Gerry Regan is the show’s technical director. Performances are scheduled Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Ticket prices range from $25 to $35 and can be purchased online at https://miznerparkculturalcenter.com. The Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center is at 201 Plaza Real in Boca Raton.