Good theater is supposed to move you, and after seeing Parkland Community College’s production of The Exonerated, I was
emotionally and physically moved. The Exonerated, written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, is about six people who were wrongly convicted, sentenced to death row, and survived to tell their story.
The play is presented through
a series of monologues and
courtroom scenes that that are derived from interviews and legal documents. In turn, the actors on stage portray the lives of six real people and tell
their real stories.
Production director and artistic director of Parkland College Theater Randi Jennifer Collins Hard says that the actors “shouldn’t seem like actors and performers. They should seem like real
people … You want to feel like you’re having a conversation [with them].” For instance, actor Julie Bedwell playing the exonerated Sunny Jacobs, has one of several touching monologues about her
husband Jesse who was wrongfully put on death row and did not survive that made me empathize with her story and admire her survival.
However, this play isn’t all tears and frustration. Aaron Ammons and Kali Boyden who play the exonerated Robert Earl Hayes and his wife Georgia lighten the mood with their outspoken personalities and great on-stage chemistry. Also, Minor W. Jackson III who plays Delbert acts as overseer of all the stories and maintains a cool and positive outlook on his survival. So even though there is a lot of aggravation and regret in the death row survivors’ stories, there is a little bit of hope, faith and humor too.
The stories presented in this play give audiences an inside perspective on capital punishment. Production dramaturg Rachael Dietkus, who has been an anti-death penalty activist for the past decade, states that because “Illinois was one of the first states to issue a moratorium on the death penalty,” The United States has all its eyes on Illinois to see what they will do next. Don’t miss the opportunity to see this well-performed and riveting production. Not only will you be entertained; you will walk away moved.
The play opened Sept. 28th and will be performed this weekend, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 at 8 p.m., next weekend, Oct. 6, 7, and 8 at 8 p.m., and Oct. 9 at 3 p.m. You can purchase tickets at the door and tickets are half price on Thursday Oct. 6.