The Production

MsTRIAL is a searing, powerful drama about a seldom-discussed, yet universal issue. Ms TRIAL is the story of a world-renown U.S. trial lawyer who is accused of raping his associate following a raucous office celebration of victory in a wrongful death case.

 “A society in cultural flux that looks to its legal system to supply an ethical foundation inevitably falls short in the gray areas of human conduct.” – Los Angeles Times review of the stage production of MsTRIAL

The Story

John Paris, one of America’s most decorated and feared trial lawyers, has a new client, the family of 9-year-old Carley Perucci, killed in the derailment of a speeding passenger train. A lone wolf, John Paris has always tried his cases alone for over 15 years of trial practice—with plenty of administrative, paralegal and junior-lawyer support—but with on one else standing up in the courtroom, standing up for his client, but John Paris himself.

But, that was before he laid eyes on Karen Lukoff, the shining young star of the local DA’s office. A third-generation lawyer from Kansas who hasn’t lost a case in her brief yet already-impressive career, Karen is a gifted, driven trial lawyer who, coincidentally, is not merely attractive—she’s stunning.

“To a casual observer or a fool, she might be mistaken for a fashion model or the pretty receptionist. That would be a mistake.”

Despite John’s history, suddenly and without warning, he hires the first trial associate to ever work for him, his nephew, Dan, who clerked for John during law school but who has been practicing corporate law in San Francisco. Dan has never been in a courtroom in his life, unless it was to deliver a note. But John Paris is a legal legend and this would be a rare opportunity for any young lawyer, much less for Dan, who has worshiped his uncle for years.

Two weeks later, John hires the second trial associate to ever work for him—Karen Lukoff.

John’s wife is not the only one who wonders what’s up. So does Karen’s boyfriend. And, at some level, so does Dan, though he got the same terms as Karen and, as he says, he’s “looked up to John Paris ever since he could look up.”

So, what is up?  Has John finally agreed to get some help, as he’s been urged to do for years by both is wife and his long-time legal secretary, or is there more to it?  Is he drawn to Karen because of her looks, her intellect or both? Even Karen’t mother wonders about her sudden invitation to join one of the most famous lawyers in America. As Karen tells her mother:  “Maybe I got the job because I’m damned good at what I do! Maybe it’s that simple.”

Nothing that simple would be worth watching.

Perparing for battle, John and Karen immediately fall into a comfortable, intimate rhythm, trading legal discourse, casual flirtation, and late-night brain storms, drawn together by the battle against a common enemy—the railroad—but also by a deeper, more primal bond of unknown origin. So, what about Dan? Dan is in way over his head. Even he wonders why John hired him.

On the field of battle, John gives Dan no quarter. Dan might as well be a raw recruit in the Marine Corps. He’ll either wash out or he’ll make it, but John won’t make it easy on him. As John says, “They throw babies in the water; they don’t show them a swimming video.”

Yet, through it all, the most obvious enemy remains the railroad. And, in the end, pushed to the brink and facing the possibility of an enormous, devastating verdict, they settle—for a significant amount of money, to be paid to little Carley’s family.

Cast & Creatives

The Cast

Dep Kirkland – John Paris
Amy Laxineta – Karen Lukoff
John Livingston – Daniel Burks
Jessica Steen – Cathryn Aldridge
Phoebe McKenery Beacham – Barbara Cooley

The Company

Barry Satchwell Smith – Director and Lead Producer
Pete Santiago – Production Design
Lew Abrasion – Lighting Design
Daddy Tzur – Original Music
Guy Zimmerman and Daniel Lynch Millner – Producers


Coming Soon


‘Kirkland grasps his subject and shakes it until its facets rattle.’

Dep Kirkland – lawyer, actor, playwright – combines all three of his multiple lives in Ms. Trial, a backstage courtroom drama in which he plays the principal character John Paris.

Curtain Up

I still think about that play every day. I can’t get it out of my head.

Board Member, Playwrights Horizons (NYC)

In a harrowing scene that flawlessly builds accelerating dramatic tension,
Karen goes from enticing tipsiness to panic as she tries to stop her boss’ advances.

Los Angeles Times

This play is very much about something.

Backstage West

A Potent Salvo in Détente Between the Sexes.

Los Angeles Times