Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Exonerated (Revisited)

Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen
45 Bleecker Theater, New York
(2004)

One year ago, when I reviewed a newly-opened show, The Exonerated, I said, "This play should be compulsory viewing for anybody that believes in the Death Penalty. Two young actors, Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen have put together the stories of six people who spent a combined century on Death Row before being exonerated (cleared)". The show has now come of age and won four major awards and richly deserves them.

The current review is of a very low-key performance. Generally, three celebrities (Alannis Morissette has recently appeared) take key roles, but on this night there was Country Rocker Steve Earle, not a great actor but allowed a short song, plus an understudy and a core cast member.

That didn't matter. The power of the piece under Bob Balaban's tight direction, is almost undiminished and Katherine Leask did a great job in the key role of Sunny Jacobs. She was a hippie who was accused of murder along with her common law husband. Despite a confession from the real murderer, she spent five years alone on Death Row and many more in gaol while he was wrongly executed.

The cast, with William Jay Marshall particularly good as Delbert Tibbs, continues to wring sympathy from the audience as they relate tales that still beggar belief at second sight. With a single exception, they are from an underclass that society is happy to condemn and incarcerate on the flimsiest evidence.

The original conclusion stands. "This is a chilling 90 minutes and police, politicians, lawyers and jurors would do well to see it. It could change their lives as well as those of their clients, customers and victims".

The Exonerated is now apparently playing around the United States. It should be shown everywhere to help to civilise the world.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher