‘The Exonerated’: Guilty as Charged ‘STUNNING’

If you did not see the multi-award-winning ‘The Exonerated’ ten years ago, now is your chance. Culture Project, on 45 Bleecker Street in the Village, celebrates the 10th anniversary of the play in special association with The Innocence Project. Written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, directed by Bob Balaban, ‘The Exonerated’ is a stunner.

To say the play is an epic is an understatement. Six characters, only connected by the fact that they were all wrongly convicted and sat on death row for years, and then exonerated. What they lost is irreplaceable. Irrevocable. Their youth, livelihood, family, husbands, brothers, children. And time. So much time.

But none of this epic is fictional; Blank and Jensen have used only the words, interviews, court transcripts of the people involved, and made up nothing. That is what makes this evening in the theater, listening to these stories, so compelling. The words. The truth of what happened.

This is not a re-enactment. The stage is bare, except for a row of chairs and black stands holding scripts. The words of the six are entrusted to a rotating cast of formidable actors: Stockard Channing, Brian Dennehy, Delroy Lindo, Chris Sarandon, JD Williams, Curtis McClarin.

The vagaries of the US judicial system are explained succinctly by Sarandon’s Kerry Max Cook, who spent twenty-two years on death row, was raped, sodomized and branded in prison, lost his brother and was then blamed for the death by his mother, and was not compensated (none of the exonerated in this play were) for any of Texas’s error: “I came from a good family. If it happened to me, it could happen to anyone.”

But perhaps the saddest story was Channing’s Sunny Jacobs, who was at the wrong place, wrong time, and only trying to protect her young children. Her husband, Jesse Joseph Tafero, also wrongly convicted, was executed in Florida, and made headlines because the electric chair malfunctioned and it took an inordinately long and painful time for him to die.

Exonerated? Yes. But the loss these people suffered is immeasurable.

The night I saw “The Exonerated” the real Sunny Jacobs was in the audience. After the performance, Channing brought her onstage, supported by a cane and walking unsteadily. Jacobs thanked the cast, thanked Channing, and thanked the audience for listening. She thanked the playwrights for “giving a voice to those who have none.” Then she cried.

Bravo.

Theatrespace Review: De-boning Miss Lily • ‘Miss Lily Gets Boned’

At the tail end of the fourth heat wave of this increasingly unbearable 2012 New York City summer, I was looking forward to a bit of relief at the 19th annual Ice Factory Festival down in the West Village. This is largely due to the talented Bekah Brunstetter’s new play, and the collaboration between Studio 42  (known for producing “unproducible” plays), Ice Factory and their new space, in the New Ohio Theatre.  With a juicy, provocative title like ‘Miss Lily Gets Boned’ how could one go wrong?

Well, the message of the play is, we’re all animals, and we are all doomed.

Which is a little bit passé, and if you have observed the climbing crime rate here in conjunction with the heat (hit and runs, shootings, stabbings, overloaded boats capsizing, with children the victims) you already knew we were doomed.

But back to the play. read more —>

TheatreSpace Review: Lisa del Rosso • Time to get CLOSER THAN EVER

CLOSER_THAN_EVER

I went into the recent off-Broadway revival of Maltby and Shire’s musical “Closer Than Ever,” presented by The York Theatre Company at Saint Peter’s on the East Side of Manhattan, blind, as it were. I had little knowledge of their music, and did not see the 1989 original New York production. So I was ready for anything.

It was opening night. The crowd was supportive. The cast, Jenn Colella, George Dvorsky, Christiane Noll, and Sal Viviano, were exceptional. Directed with assurance by Richard Maltby Jr., with musical direction by Andrew Gerle, they teased every bit of humor out of each and every Maltby and Shire song. Jenn channeled her inner feminist Dolly Parton for You Wanna Be My Friend; Christiane was moving and thoughtful for Life Story; Sal, a perfectly reasoned stalker in What Am I Doin’? and George, the picture of patience in I’ll Get Up Tomorrow Morning.

And yet… read more —>

TheatreSpace Review: Lisa del Rosso gets MASSACRE(d) by Jose Rivera & Rattlestick Playwrights Theater

If you take seven bloodied murderers, four male and three female, and put them in a room together right after they have plotted and killed the town “devil” – a man who was a murderer and worse himself – one would think this set-up would yield interesting results, at the very least.

Yet, at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater down in the Village, read more —>

THIS IS ‘IN’: TACT’S LOST IN YONKERS Theatre Review by Lisa Del Rosso’

I am not an enormous fan of Neil Simon, and this opinion is largely based on the recent, unsuccessful revivals he has had on Broadway and off. However, after watching the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Lost in Yonkers,” in a beautifully rendered production presented by TACT (The Actors Company Theatre) on Theater Row 42nd Street, I am well on the way to changing my mind. read more —>

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – Theatrespace Review: Nina Raine’s TRIBES: Get your ticket! “You Might be Missing Something”

Tribes

“You’re not missing anything,” is repeated like a mantra throughout the first act of Nina Raine’s brilliant and provocative “Tribes” by various members of Billy’s upper-middle class British family. Born deaf into an intellectually rambunctious, argumentative hearing clan, Billy (Russell Harvard), was raised reading lips and not taught sign language on principle, “so he would not be part of a minority,” according to his stubborn, retired academic father Christopher (Jeff Perry). Also currently living under the same roof are Billy’s mother, Beth (Mare Winningham), a novelist; his college-age sister Ruth (Gayle Rankin), a singer; and the insecure, older brother Dan (Will Brill), who is not quite sure what he wants to be, other than a creative person like everyone else in the family. But in truth, the family argues at such a pace that it is impossible for Billy to keep up, leaving him in silence; until Billy falls for Sylvia (Susan Pourfar) who was born hearing into a deaf family, learned sign language and is going deaf herself. Sylvia introduces Billy to a new world where fits in. Now he wants to tell his own stories his way, and asks his family to learn how to sign, refusing to speak to them until they do. When they balk, he leaves them.

The North American premiere of “Tribes” is at the Barrow Street Theatre down in the Village in New York City; it has already had a successful run at The Royal Court in London, 2011, won an Offie Award and was nominated for both Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for best new play. “Tribes” is playing currently in Australia and productions in Germany and Hungary are in the works.

“Tribes” explores notions of conforming or not, of love and possession, and of belonging. The profanity, intellectual arguments, sibling rivalry and egotism are all completely believable in a high-octane, competitive household. There are pithy one-liners, like when Ruth asks why no one in her family can’t say a word without shouting, and Christopher replies, “Because we love each other.” Ruth replies, “Yes, like a straight jacket.”

The production of “Tribes” at the Barrow Street Theatre is impeccably directed by David Cromer and beautifully acted by a first-rate ensemble. Raine’s moving, funny and shattering play demonstrates the limits and benefits of the tribe one comes from, and also, finding a new one. After Billy leaves and Dan is reduced to a gibbering wreck, he finally asks, “What is the sign for love?” The answer is both an affirmation, and an enormous step forward.

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – Theatrespace Review: “imitation should be avoided at all costs”

Yosemite

It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but when it comes to the great, early plays of Sam Shepard,  read more —>

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – Theatrespace Review: The Picture Box “Needs Some Gray”

Picture Box

If “The Picture Box,” a new play by Cate Ryan presented by The Negro Ensemble Company (celebrating their 45th season) at the 42nd Street Beckett Theater, were instead a painting, it would be only in the colors black and white. What it needs are shades of gray. read more —>

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – Theatrespace – review: “Kaddish” (or “The Key in the Window”) NY Theater Workshop

Kaddish

Less than halfway through “Kaddish” (or “The Key in the Window”), a version of Allen Ginsburg’s poem at The New York Theater Workshop in the East Village, I had to put my pen down, so mesmerized was I by Donnie Mather’s extraordinary performance. That “Kaddish,” which was not only performed but also adapted by Mather himself, coincided with the Jewish holiday of Roshashana was total luck, according to Director Kim Weild, and opening night ended September while ushering in the melancholy of autumn. A perfect backdrop for “Kaddish.” read more —>

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – Theatrespace – review: Tape

“Tape,” by Stephen Belber is playing at the June Havoc Theatre on 36th Street in mid-town Manhattan. “Tape” is a pitch-perfect study of the perpetual adolescence of the American male. I am not sure if there is a European male equivalent or even one a European will understand, other than the Scottish writer J. M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” and the “I won’t grow up” syndrome it inspired. read more —>

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – review: Territories, Splatters and Victories: Potomac Theatre Project 2011

At the Atlantic II, in New York”s Chelsea, three plays ran in rep this summer, produced by the 25 year-old company PTP (Potomac Theatre Project, from Middlebury College, Vt.)/NYC. Three playwrights: Steven Dykes, Neil Bell, both Americans, and Howard Barker, English. Running in rep, while usual for many theatre companies in the UK and regionally here in the US, it is not done so much in New York City. read more —>