There have been films about death row, like "Dead Man
Walking," and there have been small screen portrayals infused with
unmistakable moral and legal commentary about capital punishment everywhere
from Court TV to the recently defunct HBO series, "Oz." THE EXONERATED, a
staged dramatization about the wrongly convicted, has been playing in New
York for months. Now, and for a few weeks, HERE Arts Center is presenting
BROKEN MORNING: Scenes From the Death Row Factory, an impressive
compilation of vignettes and personal stories.
Told through the recollections of perpetrators, victims’
families, death row guards and the prisoners’ families, collected when
playwright Chiori Miyagawa traveled to Huntsville, Texas in 1996, the
resulting BROKEN MORNING offers a fascinating, multi-faceted view of
crime and punishment in the United States. Here, five actors portray the
twenty-four characters. They each take on multiple roles, except for Kalpo
Schwab as the writer/narrator, who describes the people we meet, and who
also sets the scene through spoken cues.
The cast of BROKEN MORNING does a good job of
identifying their disparate roles for the audience, ranging from the
hopelessly scarred mother of a murdered son, to a young mother about to lose
her life for her crimes, to the wife of one of the inmates. Most of the
condemned characters are men, as one would expect, and they are as different
as their crimes. The one thing they have in common is their fate, and if
they are, as the guards call it, "work capable," a job in the sewing
Originally presented in Dallas in 1997, BROKEN MORNING
has been evolving over the years, and now includes a handful of songs that
are sung by actors who wear the underlying emotions on their sleeves. I
could have done without the music, but appreciate the effort to continue to
polish a piece of work, even one not technically in progress.
In this strange new era of death as a form of artistic
debate and expression, BROKEN MORNING: Scenes From the Death Row Factory
is as respectable as any endeavor out there.
- Kessa De Santis -