The Exonerated asks audiences to spend a night on death row. The six major characters in the play—Kerry Max Cook (William Waxman), Gary Gauger (Ed Giron), Robert Earl Hayes (Travis Warren), Sonia Jacobs (Leslie Ann Story), David Keaton (Stan Holder), and Delbert Tibbs (Oliver Hamilton)—represent real people who spent decades there. And although all were eventually exonerated and released, it was after they had seen life from an unforgettable point of view: that of the condemned. It’s harrowing material for sure, but this is the kind of edgy, genre-crossing theatrical experience that should appeal to fans of cable television series like The Wire. The performances are strong, the material speaks volumes, and the viewer leaves with a whole lot to think about.
As Kerry, Waxman is excellent, digging deep to mine the wonder and pain of his character’s brutal prison experience. Holder has several great moments as David, a Christian struggling to retain his faith under the most trying circumstances imaginable. And as Sonia or “Sunny,” Story gives the evening’s most vivid and dramatic rendition of an off-stage crime scene. Last but certainly not least, Giron does a fine job as Gary, and is also to be commended for his direction of this worthy and very watchable one-act.