nytheatre.com review by Kimberly Wadsworth
August 23, 2009
Crime dramas are a guilty pleasure of mine (one of the Law and Order shows in particular); so I had a feeling I'd enjoy The Confessional, which takes place entirely in a police station interview room. And yes, I did. But I also thought that I'd be able to figure out the various twists of The Confessional before they happened—and boy howdy, was I ever wrong about that.
The show does start out in familiar territory—with a work-hardened detective, Bill Bryce (Jayson Akridge, who also wrote and co-directed the piece) trying to live down memories of a past case involving a serial killer. He's assigned to the case of Stanley Prentiss (a perfectly creepy Kevin Stidham), who's walked into the squad room and confessed to a murder. Except—the police haven't found a body, and the blood stains at Prentiss's apartment are pig's blood. And yet, Prentiss seems to know a lot more about the act of murder than most other people...
For the next two hours, the show takes more twists and turns than the Cyclone as Bryce interviews Prentiss again and again, trying to figure out exactly what's going on. Did Prentiss kill anyone? If so, who? And when? Is Prentiss even really named Prentiss? Even when Bryce (and the audience) thinks he knows what's happening, within five minutes it changes. My notes from this show are an exercise in delighted confusion; at one point, one of the plot twists (which it seems I didn't like) made me scribble a disappointed, "no, you didn't make that be the answer, did you?" at one turn of events—but five minutes later, I wrote, "....wow, sorry, it's not, never mind." Eventually my notes get even more inarticulate—awestruck one-word entries like "whoa!" and "huh?" and "wait...." And "!?!"
In the hands of the wrong cast, this kind of thrill ride could have been either confusing or overblown, but Akridge and his co-director, Gloria Dossett, guide an expert cast through the twists, and we cheerfully follow along. Akridge and Stidham are especially captivating in their game of cat and mouse. I was dubious about a subplot involving the relationship between Bryce and his partner, Carter Monroe (Kelly Levander), but even this loose end—at least, I thought it was loose—is tied neatly into the plot.
The "moral" of the story, such as it is, is still something other crime dramas touch on; plenty of detectives have said that "trying to catch a killer makes you think like a killer and it gets under your skin." And Bryce does indeed say something very like this. But even though it's a familiar view, the trip we take to get there is a hell of a ride.