In Hamilton theatre’s version of The Sting, real lawyers and judges are con artists and mobsters

During a trial, lawyers stand before a judge trying to prove whether someone is guilty or innocent of breaking the law.

But what if the lawyers and judges are the criminals?

That scenario will unfold in an upcoming Theatre Aquarius play called The Sting — in which the entire cast will consist of real-life lawyers and judges.

“The audience likes seeing lawyers outside the courtroom, playing people other than themselves,” said Jeffrey Manishen, an actor in the play and a lawyer.

The roughly two-hour play is an adaptation of The Sting, the Academy Award-winning classic 1973 film starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

The Sting follows a pair of con artists trying to exact revenge on a Chicago mob boss who got their friend killed.

Play is part of long tradition of lawyers acting on stage

This play is the latest edition of Hamilton Lawyers’ Show, which Manishen and the late Randy Mazza started 40 years ago.

The first lawyers’ show was an adaptation of Twelve Angry Men, which saw the lawyers play jurors in the Studio Theatre of Hamilton Place in 1983.

The play raised $5,000 for charity.

The last lawyers’ show in Hamilton was Witness for the Prosecution in 2017. 

The last lawyers’ show in Hamilton was Witness for the Prosecution in 2017.  (Submitted by Dermot Nolan)

The Sting will be directed by Steven Schipper, a member of the Order of Canada who spent 30 years as Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s artistic director and is the executive artistic director at The Rose theatre in Brampton, Ont.

Schipper also has a close connection to the Lawyer’s Show.

After seeing the play in Hamilton, he did his own version with the Manitoba Theatre Centre called 12 Angry Jurors, producing the play with the Manitoba Bar Association in 1989.

It set off a trend that would see lawyers’ shows take place across Canada and around the world, raising millions of dollars for theatre companies and charities.

Manishen asked Schipper if he’d direct The Sting, to which Schipper eagerly obliged.

“It was a passion project at the beginning … it’s kind of full circle that way,” Schipper told CBC Hamilton.

Cast members standing.
A picture of the cast of The Sting. (Submitted by Dermot Nolan)

Manishen said the cast has been practising twice weekly since January.

“People come saying it’ll be good to support a community event and a novelty to see lawyers on a stage, but then you add in the extra dimension of ‘Gee, they’re pretty good at it,'” he said.

The Sting runs at Theatre Aquarius on King William Street between Thursday, May 30 and Saturday, June 1.

Tickets are roughly $70, with proceeds going to Theatre Aquarius and the Lawyers’ Legacy for Children — The Ray Harris Fund, an endowment fund of the Hamilton Community Foundation for children and youth.