Arts & Entertainment Editor
Literature tells us that stories always have a beginning, middle and end, but literature lies to us. Sometimes stories just run side by side – spiraling outward and in, never really finding a definitive end.
The Pam and David Sprinkle Theatre questioned this cliché on Friday when seven actors took the stage to perform the melancholy and realistic play, “Getting Out.”
Written by Marsha Norman and directed by Virginia Hirsch, “Getting Out” is a play about the confrontations that come with discovering a new self after leaving prison. The play follows Arlie, a young woman in prison, while simultaneously following her older self, who she refers to as Arlene.
As a teenager, Arlie always got into trouble by being a bully and stealing money. Her angsty teen years led her to prison after she killed a taxi driver.
The play opened to Arlie sitting on her prison bed, retelling a story in which her sister and she bullied someone that collected frogs. Most of Arlie’s younger years in prison took place on the right side of the stage, while the left was the Kentucky apartment Arlene moved into after she left prison.
For many unaware of the play’s plot, they would be confused by double stories simultaneously taking place. However, after a scene, the confusion would dissipate.
The side by side plot was intriguing for people in the audience.
“The play was definitely very moving between the two different perspectives – the past and present,” said Jennifer Simmonds, a business student at UNCG.
Unlike many linear plays, “Getting Out” used its double plot to add context to what was happening in Arlene’s new apartment in her present life. While something happened in the apartment the imprisoned Arlie either performed nonverbal acting or stayed frozen on the other side of the stage. When it was time for a flashback, the same would happen on the other side of the stage.
Sometimes the sides reversed when a scene required props that were set on the opposite side of the stage.
During the show, Arlene had guests unexpectedly come over to her new apartment, including Bennie, an ex-prison guard, Carl, a criminal that escaped prison, her fed-up mother and Ruby, her new protective neighbor.
The characters fill the audience with emotion, as most of them try to remind Arlene that she cannot strive to be anything different than the criminal she was as a younger woman. Carl, Arlene’s ex-fling who impregnated her, wanted to take her to New York City to work as his prostitute, telling her it was the only way she would make decent money.
“Getting Out” showed how contagious and inviting the inflammatory life of a criminal can be after someone leaves prison. When an ex-con’s life is at the bottom because they do not and cannot get a well-paying job and a decent place to live, it drives them back to a criminal lifestyle.
However, the play was also about perseverance – becoming a new person, while also recognizing the person you once were. This was noticeable by the last scene.
“I thought it was beautiful to see her side come back in the end,” said Maya Hamer, an audience member. “The fact that it never really went away.”
The plot could feel stagnant to many, but it was not supposed to be a play about constant action and change – it was a play about finding oneself.
However, if the plot was not enthralling enough, the acting was some of the best on the UNCG theatre stage.
The young Arlie was played by Abigail Wilson, whose acting thoroughly made people entranced and even uncomfortable at times. Wilson acted intensely, taking on the psychosis one gets when they are locked in solitary for some time. She laughed maniacally, shrieked and ran. She even full-heartedly acted scenes of violence, twisting and huffing when she was held down by the physiatrist at the prison, after an anxiety break.
Besides Wilson and Josie Marie Smith, the actor playing Arlene, the five other actors played dual roles. Each actor was matched well with their character, making it feel like the audience was watching a real-life story.
“Getting Out” was mostly a blunt production on the realities of ex-prisoners. However, the neighbor, played by Ania Archie, was the comic relief during the harder moments. She also moved the plot forward. Archie’s character forced Arlene to understand that taking the easy route, the criminal route, was not going to help her, especially if she wanted to get her son back – Arlene would have to work harder than ever before.
“Getting Out” spoke to many other topics including child abuse, rape, stereotypical Southern working-class living and more.
Many audience members found the production to be moving.
“I just thought it was really passionate,” said Angelica Hanks, a senior and business major at UNCG. “It was kind of heartbreaking to see her go through what she did, but it was inspiring at the same time, to see the hope that she had, even at the end.”
Simmonds also added, “I really enjoyed it and I really felt there were a lot of emotions involved.”
Though “Getting Out” ran a short production from Nov. 2-5, those that saw it were inspired, knowing a life story never really ends, but continuously evolves.