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A CurtainUp Review
The stories are all painfully similar. They involve broken homes, substance abuse and neglect. Apparently Tolstoy was wrong. Unhappy families are not so different after all; they are all mired in similar misery.
For many years, David Rothenberg, who conceived and directs The Castle, obtained theater tickets for the residents of this 60-bed facility run by The Fortune Society for formerly incarcerated men and women. One of The Castle residents, Hamzah Hakiim, now deceased, shared much of his life experience with Rothenberg in the course of their attending plays together. Eventually Rothenberg suggested they create a theater piece based on the life of Hakiim and other residents.
The result is a powerful testament to the resiliency and determination of the human spirit. At the same time it is a tribute to the extraordinary work accomplished at The Castle, the one place, where all violence is band, for people who have known little but violence all their lives.
One word that keeps coming up in The Castle is "choice." "For years I agonized over the choices that shaped my life," says Harrigan. "By the time I had a chance to choose, I never had a choice," Torres relates.
The people who tell their stories i are not always easy to love. They talk freely of their own pain but have a harder time talking about the pain they have caused others. They quite understandably see themselves as victims, but they don't dwell very long on those they have victimized. What happened to the people Donovan sold drugs to? Is the family of the person Ramos killed still mourning their loved one? Are Torres's wife and child still scarred from his neglect and absences? Did Harrigan only steal from the rich, or did people suffer from their loss of property?
Rehabilitation, what brought these people to salvation, is the most winning element of The Castle. For Ramos it was the quiet prayer of the Quakers. For Harrigan it was Christian faith and the love of a woman. Donovan's life was changed by a growing self-respect and desire to change. Torres attributes his rehabilitation to his desire to be a good husband and father.
The statistics relating to prisons and their inmates are indeed troubling. About two-thirds of the prisoners released each year will return to prison within three years. One in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars. Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan and Oregon devote more to correction than they do to higher education.
The Castle is not entertaining in the same way as Lion King or Gypsy. But it is deeply moving and important in a way seldom achieved on the stage today. It speaks to a problem not on foreign shores or in the deep recesses of the human psyche. Rather it illuminates a dark corner of our own society, a place beyond the pale and outside our circle of friends and acquaintances.
Try onlineseats.com for great seats to
The Little Mermaid
Shrek The Musical
In the Heights
Playbill 2007-08 Yearbook
Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide