Politicians have said plenty about zero tolerance for criminals, and the country has an overcrowded prison system to show for it. “The Castle, ” a simple, fascinating production about four ex-convicts, presents the other side of the coin, describing the obstacles that criminal offenders face upon their release.
“The Castle” had its origins in 1967, when David Rothenberg, the show’s director, produced “Fortune and Men’s Eyes, ” an Off Broadway play about a man’s experience in a youth detention center. He went on to establish the nonprofit Fortune Society, which seeks to improve prison conditions and help ex-convicts. The castle in the title is the society’s stately halfway house on the Upper West Side, for people newly out of the penal system.Photo From left, Angel Ramos, Vilma Ortiz Donovan, Kenneth Harrigan and Casimiro Torres, the Castle cast. Credit Flip Kwiatkowski
Four players on stools onstage — Angel Ramos, Vilma Ortiz Donovan, Kenneth Harrigan and Casimiro Torres, who all collaborated with Mr. Rothenberg on the script — tell their true stories. Mr. Ramos, abused as a child, is an affable man who learned computer programming during a 30-year stretch for a violent altercation. He explains that convicts, desperate to be accepted, are as afraid of civilians as civilians are of them. Ms. Donovan, a former Long Islander who left home at 9 and eventually became a drug dealer, served two prison terms. Mr. Harrigan — weathered, quiet and dignified — refused a basketball scholarship so that he could be a D.J. Later addicted to crack cocaine and sentenced for burglary, he rediscovered his faith and studied law.
Mr. Torres, muscular and understated, has the strongest presence, and the most disturbing account. In a childhood on streets populated with heroin addicts, he was once forced to fight his siblings while onlookers bet on the outcome. A woman’s love was his salvation.
This is theater nearing a public service announcement. (More humor would add leavening.) But it gives voice to a growing segment of the public, urging that we reconsider how we treat former offenders. You have never seen four people more proud to declare their status as taxpayers.
Cast Starring Vilma Ortiz Donovan, Kenneth Harrigan, Angel Ramos and Casimiro Torres
|Wednesday||December 31||7:00 pm|
This information was last updated:
Schedule information with a theater review on Monday about “The Castle, ” at New World Stages on West 50th Street, misstated the scheduled length of the play’s run. It is open-ended; it is not scheduled to close on May 18. The review, using information provided by a publicist, also misstated the surname of an actor who also collaborated on the script. He is Kenneth Harrigan, not Harrington.