Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Getting Out"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark


"Getting Out"

by Marsha Norman
Directed by Lana Habash

Set Design by Larry Devlin, Lana Habash, Kate Krug
Lighting Design by Larry Devlin
Costume Design by The Cast
Sound Design by Lana Habash, Marc Harpin, J. Eric Marler, Leight Ann Price
Stage Manager Kate Krug
Producers Carol Farash & Larry Devlin

Warden......................................Peter Brown
Arlie.....................................Leigh Ann Price
Arlene............................Lynn Atkins-Latham
Bennie....................................Rick Carpenter
Doctor.......................................Marc Harpin
Guard Evans............................Ben Neumann
Guard Caldwell.....................Chucke Plaistek
Mother.....................................Sharon Evans
Principal..................................Leslie Morgan
Ronnie...............................Jennifer Grimmett
Carl....................................Ben Montgomery
Ruby.............................Michele-Lyn Abbazia
Loudspeaker Voice...Susan Deily-Swearingen

Isn't it wonderful to see a first-time director doing an exciting new play for a company's first production? Going to the Threshold Theatre to see Lana Habash, directing a baker's dozen Peridot Players in Marsha Norman's "Getting Out" is the best way I can't think of to wash the stale taste of warmed-over Broadway bigness out of your mouth. The only terrible news is that you'll get only one more week-end to do it.

Norman's play deals graphically with prison life, how women get into prison and how they get out --- and the difficulty then of staying out. The present and the past share the same space --- a kitchen, and a bedroom doubling as a cell, side by side --- and Lynn Atkins-Latham and Leigh Ann Price play the same woman outside and inside the walls, the action cutting quickly from present to past with at first bewildering speed. But Director Habash has made certain the vigor and sincerity of the performances on every side keep the center of attention.

Leigh Ann Price is Arlie, the pugnacious inmate, all insult and foul-mouthed counterpunch. Her poor-white-trash adolescence has never had a positive role-model, and her abusive father and amateur-prostitute mother teach her nothing except how to fight back. She ends up better at that than reading, and she and her slick boy-friend were selling the only thing men would buy when that gun went off. Arlie's tempestuous life leading to and inside Kentucky's Pine Ridge Correctional Institution is a shattered-mirror mosaic of haphazard scenes strewn out of sequence across the play, driven by Price's unflagging, unrepressible, vindictive energy, and only occasionally edged by her unadmitted, heartbreaking need to be hugged, almost by anyone.

Lynn Atkins-Latham, newly paroled and insisting her name is Arlene, is the center of a more straight-ahead strand of this jumpy play. Encumbered by every hate-filled memory and branded an ex-con, she tries to maintain a calm intention to look for some kind of life that will keep her out of trouble for five years of parole probation, despite the pressures and temptations of people from her past. (The playwright's quote in the program "All of us are frequently mistaken for someone we used to be" is achingly apt here.) These include her slatternly vindictive mother (Sharon Evans), a newly-retired prison guard expecting favors for his past patient favors (Rick Carpenter), her newly-escaped accomplice and pimp (Ben Montgomery) offering her more money in an hour than any job an ex-con could earn in a week, and finally Ruby (Michele-Lyn Abbazia) another ex-con who lives upstairs and is the only understanding person she can confide in. It is Atkins-Latham's task here to meet these cruelties and insults differently than did Arlie, while her slender resolve begins to crumble into doubts and fears of poverty.

If any one of these solidly honest portrayals were weak or insincere, neither Arlie nor Arlene could possibly appear believable. It's the head-on confrontations with real people, no holds barred and no words or gestures too crude to be expressed that makes the play. This is true of everyone I have mentioned here, but also of the one-scene walk-ons that keep the action flowing: Peter Brown as an aloof, contemptuous warden; Marc Harpin as a prison psychiatrist baffled by Arlie's attitude; Ben Neumann as a guard bewildered by it all; Chucke Plaistek using his low growly voice and intimidating bulk as another; Leslie Morgan as a Principal smugly triumphant at passing the wild child she couldn't tame on to a reform school; and Jennifer Grimmett as an inmate-thief who knows how to whimper herself out of punishment while Arlie gets solitary for snatching back her belongings.
I think the best word here is "ensemble."

If you know the Threshold Theatre space (recently purchased from The Beau Jest Moving Theatre) you'll realize everything here happens right in your laps and in your face, and this fine cast is at pains to make every word and hint and battle true to uncompromising life. (Fight Choreographer Jason Percy is to be highly complimented for the fact that no one, really, gets damaged in the fray.)

This is an amazingly accomplished beginning for The Peridot Players, a truly intimidating play that has, given all its searing honesty, the happiest ending possible.
It was almost sold out opening night, and has only five more performances.
What are you waiting for? You don't want Arlie to come and Make you buy tickets, do you?

Love,
===Anon.


"Getting Out" (till 19 November)
THE PERIDOT PLAYERS
Threshold Theatre, 791 Tremont Street, BOSTON
1(617)522-4205


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