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February 20, 2004 - Image 48

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-02-20

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Curtain Call

Not Guilty

"The Exonerated," dramatizing the true experiences

Tee Greatect interactive
Enterittirtment in the Country
is in your Bac* 'for 11

of six innocent survivors of death row, comes to Detroit's Fisher Theatre.


heard by everybody as an exciting
theatrical event. Even though our
production is about wrongful con-
unny Jacobs, while travel-
viction, it's not an issue piece. It's
ing through Florida with
about people that audiences get to
her common-law hus-
know well."
band, accepted a ride from
Although actors sit on stools as
a relative stranger and changed her
they speak the words of the people
life forever.
being portrayed, they enact some of
The driver, who turned out to be
the situations encountered by those
a convicted criminal on parole, shot
being depicted. Scripts are kept on
and killed police officers approach-
music stands in frOnt of performers
ing the car and, later, implicated his
to remind audiences that the words
passengers in the horrific murders.
were recorded as part of court pro-
Although her husband was exe-
cuted, the couple were eventually
The story of Gary Gauger, an
cleared — but only after she spent
Illinois farmer convicted of killing
17 years in prison. Visits from a
his parents, illustrates how innocent
rabbi, meditation and yoga got her
people can be intimidated while
through this difficult period.
being questioned and made to
The story of Sunny Jacobs, the
appear guilty. Gauger was exonerat-
only woman and the only Jew on
ed after being jailed for seven years,
death row in Florida at the time of
Director Bob Balaban, right, directing Brian
when the real murderers were over-
her conviction, will be told through Dennehy in the Off-Broadway production of
heard confessing to the crime.
a theater piece, The Exonerated,
"The Exonerated"• "I've tried to let the play
"I've tried to let the play speak for
being presented Feb. 24-March 14
speak for itself"
itself," says Balaban, who blames an
at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit.
overcrowded judicial system for
The production also tells the stories of Award, Outer Critics Circle Award
many of the problems leading to
five other death-row prisoners subse-
and the Drama Desk Award. The play wrongful convictions.
quently found innocent and freed.
also is the recipient of the National
"In the beginning, I had some fancy
During its Detroit run, the play will
Association of Criminal Defense
ideas on how we might stage this with
rotate stars. Mia Farrow and Robert
Lawyers Champion of Justice Award
elaborate lighting, scenery and the re-
Carradine will appear Feb. 24-29.
and Court TV's Annual Scales of
creation of crimes. I came to find that
Carol Kane, the Oscar nominated
Justice Award.
the play was telling us what it wanted
Jewish actress (for Hester Street), and
"I got involved with this production
to be, and that was straightforward,
Eric Roberts will be featured March 2-
four years ago after talking with Eric
emotional, honest and direct.
7. Lynn Redgrave and Eric Roberts
and Jessica, who toured the country to
"My philosophy on whatever work
will be on stage March 9-14.
interview former prisoners once on
I've done has been not inserting my
Director Bob Balaban brings a mix
death row," says Balaban, 58. "The
own personality too much unless
of entertainment experience to the
writers transcribed everything these
that was what the piece was telling
script written by Eric Jensen and
people said to them, and there was
me to do. I've tried to be guided by
Jessica Blank, whose Off-Broadway
enormous power in the words.
the material. If you listen to it, it
theater piece was performed in New
"These were fascinating and painful
usually tells you the best way to
York and received the Lucille Lortel
stories, and I thought they should be
present itself."

Special to the Jewish News

2441.2453 6300

Greg Gabbara,





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