When I think of great theatre, I think of story telling; emotional story telling in a form that we can’t imagine happening in any other way or in any other manner, and mixed with that would be the idea of surprise. That’s when theatre resonates and reverberates inside me. What Sherie Rene Scott has done with this new play, Whorl Inside a Loop, in collaboration with Dick Scanlan (directed by Michael Mayer and Dick Scanlan), reverberated inside me big time. And it surprised me, moment to moment. Choices that were made, that at first felt just casual, ended up having such meaning; Meta meaning one might say. Such a surprise. Such a joyous thing to happen for an audience. In the same way Everyday Rapture, her magnificent other autobiographical piece, surprised and enchanted me with its emotionality and shamelessness. There is vulnerability here in this beautiful raw and funny play, honesty and dishonesty in its story telling and its motive. There is humor, shame and guilt, mixed with joy, love, and pain, all wrapped up in, I can’t say it any other way, a surprising package.
The title of the show carries such subtle meaning. It didn’t occur to me until later the depth and the layers that are suggested by what this symbol means, the Whorl Inside a Loop. For those of us who carry that sign on our fingertips, we are seen as the nicest and also the cruelest. All within the same person. Or is that possible questions Sherie Rene Scott, playing the character called: the ‘volunteer’? As the ‘volunteer’ argues to be included as one who has the whorl inside a loop, we are asked to wonder, is she the nicest person you’ll ever meet, while also being the cruelest? There are indications of both inside this play. Or is she one who does not brandishes this fingerprint? The guard says ‘no’, regardless of how many times she professes to have the symbol. Who’s right? And who’s wrong?
As is my constant desire within this blog; to not give away very much about what actually happens in any play or musical, let’s just say, a lot transpires when a Broadway actress ‘volunteers’ at a maximum security men’s prison to teach a theater class to a roomful of convicted murderers. Stories are told. Beautifully. It’s prison poetry brought to life, full of love and pain, life and death, and it is very personal. There is also a thread of brutal honesty regarding prejudice, fate, punishment, and rehabilitation in our judicial/prison system that emotionally connects and affects us all, especially the volunteer. All the actors hit us hard, both bodily, verbally, and in their poetry. Especially, Chris Myers as Jeffrey who brought me to such an intense place of sorrow and tears. But, I hate to single out any one actor in this cast because each performed beautifully, done on the barest of stages, simply but majestically. Derrick Baskin as Sunnyside, Nicholas Christopher as Rick, Ryan Quinn as Source, Daniel J Watts as Flex, and Donald Webber Jr. as Bey are all given moments to shine both as the inmates, and in true theatrical meta fashion, as exaggerated characters in the ‘volunteer’s’ outside life. Sherie Rene Scott is breath-taking in her excited, nervous, endearing role, and remains in my heart as a truly courageous storyteller. A bit sneaky, I might add but she is a writer who isn’t afraid to show her darker side, her shameful side, her guilty side, her nervous side, and her rapturous side. And I thank her again for another amazing gift.