Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Review: The Castle -- Real Stories About Lives Turned Around

By Lauren Yarger
On the off-Broadway stage at New World Stages, the stories of lives out of control, prison and drug abuse are harrowing. The drama and emotions are palpable, but this isn’t a performance. For the four “actors,” this is reality—or was, until they found hope at “The Castle.”

Angel Ramos, Vilma Ortiz Donovan, Kenneth Harrigan and Casimiro Torres share their stories every Saturday at 5 pm in a 90-minute presentation conceived and directed by David Rothenberg. Their four voices represent more than 70 years in prison and a plea to help those still inside who want to turn their lives around.

Ramos served more than 30 years in prison. He carried “a lot of baggage and none of it made by Samsonite.” His father had been a ladies’ man and a numbers runner. When Ramos and his family were left homeless after a fire, they moved in with his mother’s boyfriend. He thought this was all part of a normal childhood. He became involved with drugs and was sent to prison after killing a friend.

Donovan struggled with low self esteem and made many poor choices. She used and sold drugs and would cry herself to sleep at night begging God to help her, but then would get up and repeat the same poor choices the next day. She finally realized she needed to change something when she woke up after a 15-hour time lapse with money and drugs in her pockets, but no memory of what she had done to get them.

Harrington was a good student from a loving family and enjoyed music. He excelled at basketball and was offered a college scholarship, but enjoyed “cooler” activities that involved drugs. He turned down a basketball scholarship, ironically because the college was in the town where his older brother had been in prison and it frightened him.

Torres’ home was where all of the junkies in his neighborhood hung out. At 6, he and his brother were placed in state care. He was in and out (many times running away from) those facilities, where he experienced “every kind of abuse” possible including being made to fight in “cock fight” settings with other children where people bet on the winner. He turned to drugs to ease his pain.

Sitting on stools with music stands holding their scripts, the actors deliver their stories intermingled, with each telling a portion, then yielding the stage to the next. Though all different, the narratives have two common themes: the system doesn’t work and the only reason they have been able to turn their lives around (and become taxpayers, as they all joyfully declare) is through the work of The Castle, a nickname for the Fortune Academy, which provides housing and other services to homeless former prisoners trying to re-enter society.

All four now are living testimonies of what positive change can do and are involved in trying to help others coming behind them.

For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or visit New World Stage’s box office at 340 W. 50th St., NY. For more information about the Fortune Society, go to http://www.fortunesociety.org.

Christians might also like to know:
• Harrigan speaks eloquently about his faith in Jesus Christ, which helped him get through his 12 years in prison. “I don’t know how people (in prison) survive without it.”
• Ramos also speaks about his faith and the helping hand extended to him by the Quakers.
• A $10 donation can cover the cost to bring an at-risk youth to see the show. Donations may be mailed to EKTM/The Castle, 155 W. 46th St., 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10036 or by calling 212-976-7079.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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