Thursday, September 20, 2012

Quick Hit Theater Review: The Exonerated

Brian Dennehy, Delroy Lindo and Stockard Channing. Photo: Carol Rosegg
The Exonerated
By Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen
Directed by Bob Balaban
Presented by Culture Project, in special association with The Innocence Project

What's it about?
This 10th anniversary production of the play tells the stories of six people who are convicted of crimes they didn't commit because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time or because of their race. Sentenced to death row, they later are found to be innocent by means of DNA testing and other overwhelming evidence. Presented in reading style, the actors sit at music stands holding the scripts and perform dialogue entirely taken from interviews, letters, transcripts, case files and court records. Celebrities including Brian Dennehy, Stockard Channing, Brooke Shields, John Forté and Delroy Lindo rotate to join the cast of Jim Bracchitta, Amelia Campbell, Bruce Kronenberg, Curtis McClarin, April Yvette Thompson, JD Williams (see below for the performers' schedules.) It's gripping and as timely as it was when first presented.

What are the highlights?
There are some wonderful expressions of faith amidst the injustice. A collection is taken following the performance to benefit the victims represented in the play. The night I attended, the real Sunny Jacobs was on hand. Her story of being sentenced, along with her husband, Jesse, is one of the most moving. They correspond by love letters on death row. Lindo is brilliant as Delbert Tibbs, a poet on death row. The play will make you question the justice system and whether the death penalty should be allowed.

What are the lowlights?
It runs a little long -- a 90-minute runtime ran closer to 1:45.

Other information:
The Exonerated is presented in a limited run through Nov. 4 at the Culture Project, 45 Bleecker St. at Lafayette Street, NYC. Tickets and information:

Rotating Cast schedule:

Stockard Channing
September 15-23
Brian Dennehy
September 15-23
Steve Earle
October 16-21
John Forté
October 9-14
October 2-7
Delroy Lindo
September 15-30
Lyle Lovett
September 25-30
Chris Sarandon
September 16-23
Brooke Shields
October 2-7
Sunny Jacobs
September 25-30

Christians also might like to know:
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Homosexual situations discussed
-- "N" word used

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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.

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 and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

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 CT Press Club.

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- 2017 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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