I am not a great fan of Ayn Rand. Like most I had also gone through the phase of Atlas Shrugged and Fountain head. Hence when some one suggested this play, I was not greatly enthused. This play was a product of her early works of Ayn Rand, much before those two celebrated works.
A court room drama of a murder mystery is with all its possible twists and turns is what is the theme of this play. It cleverly deploy the concept of audience inclusion into the act. Karen Andre is on trial accused of murdering her employer, erstwhile lover, the business tycoon Bjorn Faulkner. The entire 3 act play , while debating on her part and the judgement there of , on convicting her of murder, also goes through the other possible motives and other conspirators in the theory. Appearing as witnesses to the trial, Faulkners newly married wife ( who employ a private detective to track Bjorn's movements) , his father in law, a billionaire who provided Bjorn with much needed funds for survival, a NY based criminal gang leader and others goes through the upheaval of the cross questioning ordeal between the defence lawyer and the prosecutor. In the end the selected members of the jury from the audience is expected to decide on the verdict. The play ends with two options depending upon the verdict.
There is all the twists and turns and the changes of fortune to the accused. While on the first read it is not evident that the crime is committed or not and if there are any real motive of murder ( see, I have decided for the jury) , the plot progression is in the very very predictable way and can provide for cheap thrill.
What is more interesting to me is some of the observations in the foreword by the author herself.One concerning the changing of the name of the play from its original name given by the writer herself
The original title of this play was 'Penthouse Legend'. This is still its best title; it gives some indication of the play's non-realistic, symbolic nature.But it was changed twise, first to 'Woman on trial' and then to 'Night of January 16th. In both cases, the producers assured me that my original title would be a serious handicap to the play......... Today, I regret it. Night of january 16th is an empty, meaningless title. It was however, the least offensive one of those suggested to me at the time. I could not change it later; the play had become famous.
and the other on her take on the film adaptation of the play.
'The movie version of this play is another horror story. I had nothing to do with its screen adaptation. There is nothing of mine in that movie,except the names of some of the characters and the title ( which was also not mine). The only line of dialogue from my play which appears in the movie is 'The court will now adjourn till ten O'clock tomorrow morning". The cheap, trashy, vulgarity of that movie is such that no lengthier discussion is possible to me.'
In all, it was an ok read with some interesting insights about the creation itself by the author. The product wasn't all that impressive. It does not stand in comparison with the other great plays I've read.
Night of January 16th ( 1933)