Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review: Tonight?

Jim Rutter praises Kash Goins' death-row memory play "Tonight?" as "gripping" and "brutal." It's part of the Philly Urban Theatre Festival.

Review: Tonight?

By Jim Rutter 

In No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre encapsulated the torment of existence in his line “hell is other people." Unlike the central character Tony in Kash Goins gripping Tonight?, Sartre never lingered 30 years on death row for murdering five women.

Sartre also didn’t suffer years of abuse from a drunken mother who locked him in a closet for days without food, or a priest who molested him from ages seven to 10. Over a 50-minute one-act, Goins’ memory play revisits each of these heinous events; in true existential fashion, what else would Tony do when all he can do is wait?

As Tony (played by Goins) sits on a bed, transfixed by memory, his cell door swings open and shut, admitting a former girlfriend (Ruth Oliver) he killed, the priest (Michael Way) he also murdered, and the mother who abused him (Oliver). A celebrity lawyer, Anthony Hillenbrand (Donny Donnelly), narrates and comments, and also serves as an alter-ego who further berates Tony with the reminder of the potential man his brutal childhood destroyed.

In Goins’ stirring performance, the nightly toll of recollection reduces him to a quivering blob coated in spittle and sweat. While Way terrifies in his brutal depiction of Tony’s molestation, the rest of the cast can’t conjure matching performances, and struggle to emote their trite lines (“I can tell when you’re upset." "I’m not upset." "Yes, you are.”

Goins’ direction starts slowly and initially confuses about the surreal nature of the piece. However, by casting a caucasian actor as Tony’s alter ego, he infuses the existential themes with a subtle social commentary on the racial disparity in death-penalty convictions. He asks for neither sympathy nor condemnation, only a recognition of the daily torture inflicted by solitary confinement and exacerbated by a judicial system of appeals, deferments and the continually postponed execution that lends the title its question mark.

Not even the most strident death penalty supporters would defend a punishment that forces its prisoners to scrawl on the wall not days passed until parole but nights peering over the precipice of suicide. Tonight? shows us the hell and the exit in Tony’s line “I’m a gonna be in here till I die.”

Through Sunday at the Adrienne Theater 2nd Stage, 2030 Sansom St. Tickets: $15-$20. Information: www.putf.org.

 

Tuesday September 27th - Friday September 30th @ 8PM, Saturday October 1st @  3PM and 8PM, Sunday October 2nd @ 7:00PM

About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

Philly Stage
Latest Videos:
Also on Philly.com:
Stay Connected