Written and Directed by Riley Thomas
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
In Riley Thomas’s “Convicted,” currently playing at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival at the 14th Street Y Theatre, a dedicated group of convicted – some damaged – individuals gather to equitably resolve a situation that has spun out of control. The situation was precipitated by a phone call from Toper (played with an innocence marred by deep pain by Dylan Boyd) a twelve-year-old boy from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico who is struggling with his sexual status and decides to call an LGBTQA Help Line in New York City for help. Recently released convicted felon Ryan (Steven Maier), a new volunteer at Equality Now Coalition (ENC), takes the call at 2:30 a.m. and, after listening to Topher’s story, pays for the child’s bus trip from New Mexico to New York. Ryan deems it to be unsafe for Topher to stay with his conservative Christian mother who cut deeply into her son’s arms to “cleanse” him from being gay.
When Topher walks into the ENC office, manager Michael (played with steely corporate mores by David M. Farrington) goes corporate ballistic and the games begin. Or perhaps they begin when, at the beginning of the play, Ryan shoots Topher’s mother Judith (played with appropriate despicable conviction by Sabina Petra) in the head. This is a complicated and complex play that moves in and out of the present and occurs in a variety of settings over a very short period of time. Ryan’s arrest and interrogation counterpoint his past actions in the office and his motivations for shooting Judith. Amy (played with a tenderness born of tragedy by Jennifer Knox), Ryan’s supervisor and responsible for his internship at ENC, serves as the play’s “narrator” and “center.”
Playwright Riley Thomas also directs and keeps the action moving forward. There are times the actors upstage one another and times when they cannot be heard – both easily addressed. The actors seem to capably portray their characters honestly exposing their assets and their flaws. Nandita Chandra and Rachel Kara Perez portray ADA Shannon and Detective Clemenza (respectively) with appropriate dispassion. Cast member Lacretta delivers a powerful and authentic performance as ENC’s counsel Blair and commands the stage bringing out the best in her fellow actors who are lucky enough to interact with her. Steven Maier brings an appropriate brooding moral constancy to his morally ambiguous character Ryan.
Mr. Thomas’s script is an interesting exploration of moral ambiguity and motivation that navigates rich and enduring questions. Is murder ever justifiable? Are conservative Christian parents justified when they physically abuse their children? Is the justice system truly just? How far should one go for what one believes? And, perhaps most relevant at this time, are there really two sides in every moral argument?