With P.I.C. : The Prison Industrial Complex, the Conciliation Project hits the cruelty of the American criminal justice system hard with just about everything they can throw at it: Scores of characters, plenty of song & dance, real last words from death row inmates, a talk show, a fashion show, a bonfire of strawmen, and much, much more.
Director Joe Carlson keeps up a breakneck pace, like Capital Fringe were the Iditarod. P.I.C.’s eight-person ensemble covers a lot of ground and displays a lot of talent. In particular, Kaitlin Raine thrives at the show’s quick pace, fearlessly bounding from character to character with an amazing energy.
Kabby Mitchell III’s choreography and Dr. Tawnya Pettiford-Wates arrangement make for ever-changing visual and musical landscapes. Songs vary from quick original works to more familiar hymns and even Jail House Rock.
With all that variety, it’s surprising how little traditionally dramatic theatre is included. When characters do share a scene, Carlson typically has them speaking out into the audience instead of truly interacting. Even when characters have the stage alone, the quick pace means some monologues get blown through in order to get to the next scene. Brittany Caldwell’s intense performance helped make up for this deficit; making the most of small moments of real drama.
P.I.C. : The Prison Industrial Complex
closes July 23, 2017
Details and tickets
With a more controversial topic, P.I.C. might feel too one-sided, loud but unconvincing. Ari Jacobsen plays a handful of powerful white men, each immediately reviled by the audience. Simple strawmen to be destroyed. Fortunately (or really rather unfortunately), the American criminal justice system is a very easy topic to rally against. The show, though pedagogic, doesn’t oversimplify or feel undeserved.
P.I.C. : The Prison Industrial Complex has been performed before by the Conciliation Project, each time with changes to the script devised by its cast. This production has been cut down to 60 minutes from 90, leaving room for an essential piece of the production: an experimental talkback, featuring improvisation and real Kleenex to symbolically wipe your political correctness mask off. It’s a gamble, but fits in well with an overall bold, brave, and important show.
P.I.C. : The Prison Industrial Complex. Written collaboratively by the Conciliation Project. Arranged and conceptualized by Dr. Tawnya Pettiford-Wates. Directed by Joe Carlson. Performed by Brittany Caldwell, Keisha Delva, Kaitlin Raine, Antonio Sellers, Ari Jacobsen, Vivian Allvin, Madelyn Farris, and Samantha Williams. Assistant directed by Debora Crabbe. Lighting design by Andy Waters. Choreographed by Kabby Mitchell III. Produced by the Conciliation Project. Reviewed by Marshall Bradshaw.