THE WAY OUT
nytheatre.com review by Paul Hagen
The story of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, the prizefighter wrongfully
imprisoned for over twenty years, grabbed national attention with the
feature film The Hurricane. For those looking to experience his
story without the Hollywood whitewash, playwright Timothy Nolan has
created The Way Out.
August 15, 2002
The play begins at the end of Carter's final legal appeal and catapults into a frenzied series of scenes from his life with three goals: to create a biography of Carter, to expose a climate of racial prejudice in the justice system, and to explore the tragedy of time lost. The biographical scenes (i.e., Rubin's discovery of boxing and the night of the murders) can at times feel overlong, and the scenes about race relations seem echoes of what has been said many times ("Black people can only be seen as entertainers or criminals," "Twelve white people is not a jury of my peers," "Officer please get the shotgun out of my nose"). But in encountering lost time, all aspects of the work—writing, performance, and direction—approach brilliance. The audience is asked to viscerally experience seconds slipping away from us; we are witness to Carter sending his daughter away after an embrace constricted by handcuffs; we are part of Carter's hallucination as his imprisonment pushes him toward a truly disturbing breakdown.
Throughout, Shiek Mahmud-Bey as Carter embraces, laughs with, and is attacked by a huge cast of characters we never see, and he does so with admirable clarity. It is truly his play—a series of monologues and scenes, some more or less successful, and when he is at his best, he truly shines. Tod Engle as "The Judge" ably plays a multitude of stock characters: "token white man" as judge, cop, member of the press, and attorney. Director Vincent Marano is at his best choosing to have actors boldly confront the audience, casting us as jury, as passersby on the street, as a rioting mob.
Though The Way Out is in many ways a story you've heard before, in the end it proves to be a story that bears retelling.