I felt it was like a black hole. I got sucked right in and I never really got the chance to come up for air. I found myself going from one character to another, one scene to another, and my heart was racing. I felt jostled and found myself being challenged. I felt several emotions in rapid sequence. I was agreeing with the characters and then feeling like I could never admit that, even to myself. I found myself questioning morality. Yes, the story was so powerful. I would expect nothing less from the best play I have watched all year. And I don’t expect to see one better for a while.
This is a story about Angel, a young Puerto Rican man who is standing trial for murder and all the characters and circumstances that surround him. It’s about his introduction to the justice system through his lawyer Mary Jane Hanrahan, played by Elizabeth Graveman. It about criminal defense lawyers and their motivations. It’s about justification for murder. It’s about Lucius Jenkins’ (Terell W. J. Randall Sr.) seeking redemption for his serial murders, through Jesus. It’s about the perception of criminals through the eyes of their correction officers, Valdez and Charlie played by B Weller and Kevin Stroup respectively. It’s about so much more.
The performances were brilliant. I would have to give credit to Christina Rios for expert direction in guiding a very talented cast of five actors. All actors performed so flawlessly that I felt bad I cannot credit one over the other. Every one of them just blew their roles out of the water. B Weller’s portrayal of Valdez gave me chills. Elizabeth Graveman played Mary Jane ably and brilliantly, showing so much dimension to her character, I was spellbound. And of course the discourse between Angel and Lucius was so effectively played out that the intensity and depth of the characters were palpable. I have heard somewhere that there are no small parts in theatre. Even Kevin Stroup’s character Charlie ,a smaller role, had me thinking.
The set was minimal just a table, two chairs, and some prison bars, yet effective and the simple lighting worked very well in the confined space of the Soundstage Theatre. There is significant adult language and there is about two minutes of smoking on the set. I am very sensitive to cigarette smoke but I would make an exception for this play. What can I say? I was blown away - completely blown away. If you are into serious drama, a very well written script, a play that is superbly directed and acted, this might be one you would not want to miss.