Thursday evening I (finally) got to see The Originalist. This post will have spoilers, so stop reading if you still wish to see it. The show begins with Justice Scalia giving a talk at a law school. Edward Gero, the actor playing Scalia, got his mannerisms down to a tee. The voice was slightly off–not quite grumpy enough–but the facial expressions and smirks were perfect. Scalia is talking about why the Constitution does not allow affirmative action. Out of nowhere, an audience member sitting in the front row stands up and calls out to Scalia. After a moment, we realize that she is part of the play. She challenges Scalia that under the original Constitution, slavery was allowed. Scalia indulges her, and wishes her good luck with her legal career. She replies that she has an interview with him. D’oh.
The interview scene is fascinating, but unrealistic. Scalia desired to hire a liberal clerk to help him dismantle the other side’s arguments. The clerk-to-be, Kat–who went to HLS and clerked for Judge Wood–plays that part well. She’s not afraid of sparring with Scalia, and calls him a monster. Scalia plays the role well.
After she is hired, the Justice and the clerk have a number of discussions concerning United States v. Windsor. Scalia asks her if she can write an objective opinion. She says yes. Much of the play is about her proving that she can be accomplish that goal.
Scalia also takes her shooting. They use an AR-10. In what was definitely a nod to Justice Kagan, the “flaming” liberal loves shooting. (Really, it is a blast!).
In one of the odder turns, Scalia says someone from the Federalist Society would “help” Kat with her Windsor opinion. Absurd. But anyway, he is a sycophant ass-kisser, who worships the ground Scalia works on. In one of the more tense moments, the sycophant leaks to Politico that the clerk is a lesbian. In a showing of grace, Scalia tells her that he doesn’t care what she does in her personal life, even though later in the play Scalia insists that none of his kids could ever be gay. It was very touching the way they portrayed the scene, because she was mortified of what he would say.
In another moving scene, the clerk’s father passes away. Scalia takes her to church, and they pray together.
In the closing scenes, Kat tries to persuade Scalia to add a sentence to his Windsor dissent, acknowledging that both sides have valid points. Scalia refuses to do so, and insists he is the Justice. But in the final scene, Scalia reads his Windsor dissent from the bench, and includes that sentence. I checked his announcement from the bench, and as best as I can tell, that line was ad-libbed.
The program acknowledged Joan Biskupic and Nina Totenberg, who no doubt helped to lend an air of legal accuracy to the production. I would highly recommend it!