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(Posted 5:30 p.m., Apr. 21)

OYP production of 'Within Walls' offers glimpse into the criminal mind
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Claire Hogan plays prisoner #47236 Robin O'Shea in the OYP production of "Within Walls". Fred Sherwin/Photo


"Within Walls" is an ensemble production by the Orléans Young Players senior collective class that examines the motivation and misdeeds of seven prison inmates and their guard.

Six of the seven inmates are women who are in prison for everyhting from drug trafficking to first degree murder. Girl Guides they are not. The one male prisoner, played by A.J. Jimmo, is a serial killer whose parents abandoned him when he was 16.

Each of the characters tells their story one by one. Darcy Kellar is prisoner # 18476. Played by Jennifer Kearney, Kellar is in prisoner for hitting a store owner with a shovel during an armed robbery.

But Kellar's transgression pales in comparison to that of prisoner #37402. Sue-Ellen Mercer, played by Jennifer Moffat, killed her children by leaving them in the back seat of her car and driving it into a river.

She wanted to kill herself as well, but she got scared and jumped out at the last second. Now locked up in prison, she's filled with remorse.

"Being her in jail is worse than being dead. I have to replay my actions over and over again and it kills me. I deserve to be more than anyone else. I killed my babies," laments Mercer.

Well, at least she's right on the last count. Personally, she wasn't about to get any sympathy from this audience member.

After hearing from the first two inmates, the audience was introduced to their lecherous prison guard, played by Jonathan Perron-Clow, who only took the job because he wasn't good at anything else.

His biggest beef is that it's nearly impossible to have a relationship outside the prison and that the female prisoners are constantly trying to "get with him".

Prisoner #67892 is Rachel Warner, played by Karolyn Harris. After being thrown out of her parent's house for having a baby out of wedlock, she turned to drug dealing to make ends meet.

"We had no money, no shelter. They say money doesn't buy happiness, well I can tell you poverty doesn't buy happiness either. I only wanted what was best for my baby," she says in a shallow attempt to defend her actions more for her own benefit than that of the audience.

Broden Stokes is prisoner #74760, played by Allana Smith. Under the heading isn't life ironic, Stokes stabbed her husband with the knife he had bought her for Valentine's Day after she found out he was having an affair with a 17-year-old.

After hearing from Joseph Reid, the psychopath serial killer, the audience is introduced to prisoner # 47236 Robin O'Shea, who is played by Claire Hogan.

O'Shea was either a hooker, a drug dealer or both, who eventually kills her supplier/pimp. Afterwards, she's befriended by a young girl who reminds her of herself when she ran away from home at 16.

After "adopting" the young girl, the pair are visited by four former associates of O'Shea's who want to take the girl away for their own devices. In the ensuing struggle she stabs the girl instead of one of the men and the girl dies. She's in prison for abduction and manslaughter.

Last but not least the audience is introduced to prisoner #18476 known simply as Cha Cha, the former three time gold medalist at the annual Latin Dance Off.

Played by Shanali Dias, Cha Cha is serving a life sentence for killing her husband and salsa partner as well as his girlfriend after finding the two of them in bed together.

"I cut off his legs and then I killed her. She wasn't very beautiful, but the colour of her blood was the same colour as my rumba costume," says the textbook sociopath.

After meeting all the inmates the play wraps up in a series of vignettes showing the inmates fighting each other. In the final scene, there's an all out brawl.

On the whole, the play was very well done. I especially enjoyed the performances of A.J. Jimmo as the serial killer, Shanali Dias as Cha Cha and Claire Hogan as Robin O'Shea.

The other performances were very good but they lacked a level of raw emotion that could have taken them to the next level.

It should be noted that a majority of the cast members appeared in "Monologues and Movement: Tales from the Heart" last year, and while the two plays are quite similar stylistically, "Within Walls" requires much more from the players in terms of their willingness to bare their souls (or at least the souls of their characters) and leave everything they have on the stage.

Fortunately, they'll get a chance to do it all over again next Friday night when they perform a double bill with the ENCORE! Theatre Company who will be presenting their version of F.G. Lorca's "Blood Wedding". Tickets for both shows will be $10. Curtain time at the Orléans Theatre will be 7 p.m.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

 

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