Carey Crim’s “Conviction” is the kind of modern drama to which writers dream of attaching their name. “Conviction” tells the story of the perfect American family affected by one enormous accusation, and how that allegation infects a once unbreakable group of good people.
The story unfolds as Tom (Garret Dillahunt) and Leigh Hodges (Sarah Paulson) come home with another couple from a school performance of “Romeo and Juliet,” which Tom directed. Playful conversation and banter between characters ensues giving insight into the characters’ mannerisms and demeanor. Tom is the confident, witty, intelligent, and adored husband, father, friend, and teacher. The last of which creates the biggest problem.
A late phone call from Tom’s principal interrupts what appears to be a near perfect night. Through the use of dramatic lighting and dark music, the mood on stage shifts as Tom is informed of the accusation hurled at him by one of his students acting in “Romeo and Juliet.” Tom is suspended for allegedly sexually abusing this young girl. Despite his untarnished reputation and his insistence of innocence, Tom is sentenced to three years in prison. However, Dillahunt’s excellent portrayal of a wrongly accused man makes the audience question the court’s verdict of guilty; it is Crim’s raw dialogue that brings audiences back to the middle asking them to decide for themselves Tom’s verdict.
During Tom’s prison sentence, the once idolized Hodges family is torn apart. Sarah Paulson delivers a heart wrenching performance as the strong and emotional wife who stands by her husband despite the overwhelming public opinion of his guilt. She is left to care for their troubled son (Daniel Burns), who undergoes a dramatic lifestyle change marked by a botched haircut, an all black wardrobe, and an affinity for drugs.
With her husband’s absence, Leigh is supported by her close friends Bruce (Brian Hutchinson) and Jayne (Elizabeth Reaser)—until Tom’s return that is. Relationships face stormy waters when Tom comes home. Jayne’s doubting Tom becomes a force too much for Leigh, resulting in the end of their friendship. Tom and Leigh’s marriage has its expected emotional twists and turns with an unexpected outcome in the second act.
“Conviction” is this season’s first Bay Street production, but it is also Scott Schwartz’s first production as the theater’s first new artistic director since Bay Street’s opening. Schwartz certainly exceeded expectations, and in doing so, he has set the bar at a brand new height for himself and for Bay Street. If this season’s productions are as well directed, performed, and put together as “Conviction,” Bay Street and Schwartz are set to have a heck of a season.
“Conviction” will stage every night but Mondays at Bay Street Theater from now until Sunday, June 15. On Sundays and Tuesdays, the play begins at 7 p.m., all other nights at 8 p.m., and matinees are Sunday and Wednesday at 2 p.m. Tickets begin at $60.75. With a high school or college ID, the matinee shows are free.
Bay Street Theatre is located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call 631-725-9500 or visit www.baystreet.org.