Presented by Rarely Done Productions
Location CNY Jazz Central 441 E Washington St. Syracuse
When October 21-28
Word about town: Syracuse.com review
Review By Amy Brueckman
If you couldn't find the summary in the program, the minimal set was enough to tell you everything you needed to know about Rarely Done Production’s “The Exonerated.”
An extremely foreboding American flag hanging behind a chain lasso served as the backdrop. The small space at Jazz Central proved to be a worthy stage for the ten person cast. This intermission-less play interweaves six stories of wrongfully convicted people who have been imprisoned, some even making it as far as death row. Their alleged crimes range from robbery to rape to murder, though they were all innocent.
“The Exonerated” tells their side of the story, which was what the police and the legal system initially failed to recognize. Their sentences ranged from two years to a staggering 22 years. Scenes ranged from personal accounts of actions, flashbacks to events, and courtroom testimonies.
Delbert (Charles Anderson) served as a type of narrator, providing not only his own story, but a diverting commentary as a segue between scenes. He pointed out what underlying themes the audience were supposed to be taking away from the stories being told.
The sound effects of gunshots during Sunny's (Anne Fitzgerald) moment of recollection were enough to jolt audience members in their seats. Her story was possibly the most tragic: She was exonerated after 17 years behind bars, though her wrongfully convicted husband was executed.
Fitzgerald's performance of the hopeful hippie Sunny is appropriately heartbreaking. Other notable performances include Robb Sharpe as Kerry, a timid and prison-violated man convicted of murder and David Minikheim as Gary, a man convicted of murdering his parents.
The exoneration from prison is not always as freeing as it should be as the six have to learn what it's like to be human again. Once they return to the real world, the characters have trouble integrating back into society because their mistaken criminal past constantly comes back to haunt them. The characters demand the pity of the audience and they are given it.
The play resonates with a slight feeling of anti-police and anti-legal system, or as Delbert puts it, “the folks in charge.” The politically driven plot could have been quick to beat us over the head with legal terms and opinions, but the message achieves a relatively even balance throughout the entire play. Though “The Exonerated” might not inspire you to protest the death penalty, the play will have you leaving the theatre contemplating the true meaning of the phrase “justice for all.”