Richa Das

Direction : Raveesh Jaiswal
Writer : Jessica Blank, Erik Jensen
Cast : Avantika Akerkar, Joy Fernandes, Meher Acharia Dar, Asif Ali Beg, Suresh Venkat, Nizwar Karanj, Zervaan Bunshah, Sandeep Jayaram, U-Jay


Literature is often regarded as the antidote to history - telling stories that often get lost when those in power decide what is to be remembered and what is to be not. Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen's play, THE EXONERATED, chronicles the lives of 11 incarcerated individuals who were sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit. Together they spent more than a hundred years on death row before the criminal justice system could free them. These stories are picked from the United States of America's criminal justice system, but how does a play like this pan out in India?

Director Raveesh Jaiswal stayed true to the script; the dramatized reading took place in a closed room where characters wore black and performed intermittently. Joy Fernandes took center stage as the exonerated Delbert Tibbs, telling the story of his wrongful conviction with joyful pauses of poetry. The other characters strung out like chords, one after another, and sometimes all together. Yael Crishnas lighting was the only motion on stage - dribbling from one character to the other in clockwork fashion.

Dielle Braganza's welcome with the violin was beautiful and set the tone for the evening. However, the rest of the production's sound design lacked the harmony that could have glued these stories together - the unflattering acoustics can share the blame. Nevertheless, the cast trudged on, Avantika Akerkar shining through all her performances as Georgia, Sue, and Sandra. The rest of the cast had very little avenue to bridle past the verbose nature of the play.

THE EXONERATED is for admirers of the long-form, for those of us who are yet to succumb to quicker temptations of the screen. It demanded time and engagement with politics not very different from our own, but still quite beyond our imagination. If you are looking for a serious and sincere retelling of American history this is just the play for you.

Richa Das is a sub-editor by day and an avid theatre enthusiast by night. You may find her lurking in the shadows of a proscenium arch near you

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