Saturday, August 29, 2009

NY Fringe Festival Review: The Confessional

The Confessional
Presented by: The Cohort Theatre Company
Writer: Jayson Akridge
Director: Jayson Akridge and Gloria Dossett

Mild-mannered high school social studies teacher Stanley Prentiss (Kevin Stidham) confesses to murdering his neighbor, but police can’t find a body and there doesn’t seem to be any evidence the woman ever existed and they think it must be a hoax.

Something about Prentiss gets under the skin of detective Bill Bryce (author and director Jason Akridge), however, who senses in the suspect the same evil he recognized in a serial killer named Martin Hobbs whom he tracked and captured. What’s more, Prentiss claims to have committed Hobbs’ murders and knows details only the killer would know, leading Bryce to question whether he arrested the right man.

Meanwhile, Prentiss threatens Bryce’s love interest, Detective Carter Munroe (Kelly Levander) forcing Bryce to take action to stop Prentiss. He pursues the case and questions Sandra Beatty (Ashley Larsen), a teacher at the same school, who can’t believe he could have committed such a crime. In a game of cat and mouse, the question for everyone becomes, “what really is true.”

Akridge’s script plot is fairly decent and gives a number of nice twists, but is laden with clichés and false-sounding lines between Bryce and officer Troy Brown (Joe Levander). The interesting subject matter can’t overcome the rather wooden acting, either. There isn’t any chemistry between Bryce and Munroe, and no palpable tension between Bryce and Prentiss. Most of the lines sound like they are being read (actors don’t even look at each other sometimes while reciting the lines).

• Nice twists and exploration of evil

• Noted above.

Christians might also like to know:
• Language
• Bloody scalp prop
• Munroe leaves her husband to pursue a relationship with the already-divorced Bryce

Fringe Tassels Awarded: 2

VENUE #1: CSV Cultural and Edu. Cntr. Milagro
See it again Sat 29 @ 7 Sun 30 @ 2

--Lauren Yarger

1 comment:

Whimsey said...

I just ran across this review of my favorite show from Fringe 2009, and I'm miffed. Did you just give away a crucial plot twist in what feels to me to be a rather prissy "Christians ought to know" section? I believe Dante describes a dedicated level in Hell for theatre critics who include spoilers in their reviews, particularly in the service of prissiness.

Also, a tip for your more sensitive Christian readers: if a fake bloody scalp gives one pause, one might want to avoid the Old Testament entirely! Come on, Lauren. Evil is violent: ergo, plays about evil are plays about violence. And this one was terrific, providing a gripping account of evil's presence in the modern world. The audience was on the edge of its seats the night we attended. I heard audible gasps several times as reversal after reversal caught us entirely off guard. I attended "The Confessional" with my friend who is a chaplain with the MTA, and she felt very strongly that it was the most spiritually relevant play she'd seen performed in the city in her 48 years of theatre-going. Does that sound like stilted, cliched writing to you? It certainly didn't to us.

Were we even watching the same play? It's hard to believe we were! You do know "The Confessional" was initially produced at an evangelical university, don't you? And you DO know, I hope, that actors DON'T always need to look at each other when they speak, any more than people do in real life? Good heavens. You've written some great reviews in the past, but lately I think if a show has any representations of unpleasantness in it, you pan it out of hand. Perhaps mystery/suspense is not your genre of choice. I suggest you do future playwrights in this genre a favor and give their shows a miss if you are going to assume that unpleasantness is invariably gratuitous, which seems to be the implicit point emanating from your Fringe reviews when taken as a whole.
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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 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

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for 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


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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