BWW Reviews: THE EXONERATED - An Extremely Moving Piece on the Innocent of Death Row; Plays Montreal's Espace 4001


From 1976 to 1992, just remove that entire chunk from your life. This is what happened to Sonia Jacobs, who was put on death row for 16 years for a crime she didn’t commit.

The Exonerated tells the true stories of six innocent men and women who were sentenced to death. As the separate testimonies unfold a picture is painted of the American criminal justice system and all that is wrong with it.

Directed by Kent McQuaid, Third Eye Ensemble brings to life this deeply humanistic show that exhibits what it is to have your freedom and self-respect stripped away from you, and then purportedly returned to reclaim a life you no longer have.

10 years after its premiere in New York City, The Exonerated is no less relevant or less horrifying as it was in 2002. Issues of race, economic class, and law enforcement are raised by playwrights Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen.

While some actors gave stronger performances than others, the individual stories each told were extremely powerful.

As Sunny Jacobs, Anne-Marie Saheb gave a captivating performance, portraying a bright, hippie-type woman who was present, with her husband, at the murder of two police officers. Saheb recounted with extreme calm and focus how the actual killer entered a plea agreement for a reduced sentence in exchange for his false testimony against the couple. Jacobs was lucky enough to still be alive when the truth came out, her husband however, was not.

Raphaël Grosz Harvey also gave a very moving performance as Kerry Max Cook, the shy and sensitive Texan who was abused on death row for 22 years. He was sentenced simply on the basis that an old fingerprint of his was found at the crime scene, he was later freed by DNA evidence. The pain that Harvey exhibited while portraying Cook was extremely believable.

The set is the epitome of minimalism, featuring six chairs set up in a row and a judge’s stand behind them. Contrary to what you may think at first glance, the set is extremely effective, leaving the audience with nothing else to focus on but the surreal testimonies which are being told.

The use of lighting was also excellently executed by Alex Smith, using harsh spot lights to highlight the intense realness of these stories.

The production’s power comes from its simplicity, the tales of the people the world forgot to care about.

THE EXONERATED plays at Espace 4001 from now until Dec. 2, Wednesdays to Sundays at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $15. For more information, click HERE.

Photo Credit: Bob Wilson

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