On trial


On trial
   This early play by Elmer Rice (billed under his real name, Elmer L. Reizenstein) opened on 19 August 1914 at the Chandler Theatre for 365 performances, produced by George M. Cohan, Sam H. Harris, and Arthur Hopkins. Innovative in its employment of a cinematic "flashback" technique (perhaps the first American play to use it effectively) and its depiction of a realistic courtroom environment, On Trial was a significant success for Rice, who emerged as one of the American theatre's most promising dramatists. Robert Strickland is on trial for the murder of Gerald Trask. Strickland, in debt to Trask for $10,000, claims to have paid back the loan, but the prosecutor insists that Strickland went to Trask's house to steal back the money and killed Trask in the process. Strickland's wife confesses on the stand to having been seduced by Trask, adding that on the night of the murder she begged Trask not to reveal their past indiscretion, although she denies killing Trask. Glover, Trask's secretary, is caught in some contradictory testimony, but he, too, denies murdering Trask. The jury acquits Strickland, and Trask's actual murderer is never revealed. On Trial reached the motion picture screen in three versions (1917, 1928, 1939).

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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