By Jessica Blank & Erik Jensen
Directed by Sonia Alexandria
At La Costa Theatre
The Exonerated is a dated and slanted propaganda piece
The Exonerated, now playing in a nicely performed short run at La Costa, tells the story of six wrongfully convicted survivors of death row in their own words. We hear the heart wrenching stories of how mostly rural Southern small town police and state’s attorneys violated the rights of the accused that lead to their being convicted of murder and sentenced to death. These folks spent years on death row until they were helped by anti-death penalty organizations to get their sentences over turned. DNA evidence helped several establish their innocence.
These stories are emotional and stir the debate over the ethics of the death penalty. That is my problem with The Exonerated, that it is pure propaganda, not a theatre piece. Telling the story of six victims seems a tad too much. The play slows down with tedious speeches about how each got abused by the criminal justice system.
While I abhor what happened to these people, this issue isn’t a new cause. We have known about the abuse of the criminal justice system for years. The Exonerated doesn’t cover any new ground and it doesn’t offer any solutions to the problem It continues to be a propaganda piece aimed to convert public opinion against the death penalty. It speaks of racially motivated arrests and convictions. That isn’t anything new either. Many believe that these gross injustices still need to be presented to audiences. I’m not so sure.
I question the theatricality of this show. Is it a play or a polemic? I resent being preached at and this show sure does that. The performers were effective, exuding all the rage that being accused and convicted of murder contains. This is worthy material for a documentary but it wears thin on stage despite terrific performances by the ensemble.
At La Costa Theatre, 3931 N. Elston Ave., Chicago, IL, call 866-468-3401, tickets $15, Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm. Sundays at 4 pm, running time is 1 hour, 40 minutes without intermission.