Nathan Duncan (Andrew Flurer) wants to tear down the system and build a better one (you know, “Damn the man” style). Instead, he’s an-almost-lawyer-turned-dog-walker with a marijuana operation on the side, which lands him one night in the slammer.
That is, before his kooky mother, the real estate mogul Crystal Duncan (Kimberlee Wolfson), bails him out and strikes a deal. He must spend a week in Ravenstown, the wackiest for-profit prison this side of NoSketchTo (North of Sketchy Town) as a part of a reality-TV like scheme devised by the eq
ually madcap Xavier Dockow (Joseph Mariano), who also wants to institute the “Way to Grow” program. This will help inmates develop skills in cultivating and selling pot. It will also rake in the dough for Ravenstown.
But, Nathan isn’t going so easily. He drags his former friend, now Life Coach, Ellie (Karen Elle) and his drug dealing partner, now enemy, Greasy Thumbz (Sebastian Leighton) with him. Inside, they encounter the ever-eager Post reporter Veronica (Nichole Chimere Morgan), slightly sadistic Chief of Guards Isabel (Karin Rosnizeck), and bad-guy-gone-good Eddie (Samuel Wright). All of them, it turns out, are entangled in Nathan’s drug operation in one way or another.
Prison Break, Incorporated is a raucous, absurd ride with clever writing. It feels like a John Irving novel (Son of the Circus kept coming to mind) but without the breathing room a novel would afford. That’s to say that a lot happens in a short amount of time. Drug smuggling. Protests. Pulitzers. Bills (like those that sit in committee on Capitol Hill). Rehab. Yoga. Commercials. An obstacle course. You get a sense of whiplash with all the on goings, which only thinly conceal a much larger political commentary, and have moments of sensory overload (as with the opening sequence, which is a set of rapid –fire commercials and voice-overs).
Written by Derek Hills
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Flurer is a great slacker and his ever-chill attitude tones down the flamboyancy of his mother, Crystal, who is a bit annoying. Which is ok. That’s just the character. Wright’s Eddie is as straight as they come in this show, and he too provides a nice counterbalance to Isabel and Xavier—who turns up to introduce the Prison Break obstacle course (which comes compete with a piranha pit) in a beautiful, sparkling sports coat.
Some of the best moments come when the show drops its madness as when Eddie talks about how he ended up in prison or Greasy Thumbz details his way to a life of crime.
But, ultimately, Prison Break, Incorporated is a comedy, which comes on full force as Eddie and Nathan run the obstacle course together. Confetti rains down on them as they hula hoop their way to the “Shawshank” pipe, through which they must crawl to freedom. Just like Stephen King’s beloved antihero Andy Dufresne. A pretty memorable Eurodance hit accompanies their sprint to the finish, and it was in these final moments that I found the show truly, truly funny. At other times, it felt like the actors were stepping on each other, trying to one-up the other, instead of playing together as a part of an ensemble. Their rhythm was just a bit off. And with such craziness, everyone has got to hit their points. Otherwise, it just kind of looks and feels like chaos. It may be every man for themselves (quite literally—every character is self-absorbed) driving the plot, but it shouldn’t be every man (or woman) for themselves driving the play.
Still, Prison Break, Incorporated has a lot of promise and its debut at Capital Fringe feels right.
Prison Break, Incorporated . Written by Derek Hills. Directed by Natalia Gleason. Featuring Karen Elle, Andrew Flurer, Sebastian Leighton, Joseph Mariano, Nichole Chimere Morgan, Karin Rosnizeck, Kimberlee Wlofson, and Samuel Wright. Production: Laura Schlachtmeyer (Stage Manager), Stephen Deming (Lighting Design), Salvador Fawkes (Choreography), Alexis Zepeda (Captioning). Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.