Shawshank Redemption is Very Redeeming at FR Playhouse - TribPapers
Arts

Shawshank Redemption is Very Redeeming at FR Playhouse

Sadistic prison guard Bryon Hadley (Ryan Knowles) threatens to hurl Andy (Lawrence Street) off the prison roof. Photo provided.

Flat RockThe Shawshank Redemption is a riveting drama at the Flat Rock Playhouse for two more weekends. The three main actors spoke to the Tribune about their characters hours ahead of their brilliant performance last Saturday night, June 15.

Joseph Pallister plays Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding. He was incarcerated for 40 years in “The Shank” — Shawshank (Maine) State Penitentiary. Pallister had guest roles on hit TV series FBI and The Blacklist. His deep, clear voice resonates with wisdom much as Morgan Freeman’s vocals did as Red in the 1994 hit film version.

The story originates in Stephen King’s novella entitled Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. That refers to a poster of 1940s sex goddess Hayworth on a cell’s interior wall. The poster figures prominently in the plot.

Lawrence E. Street portrays Andy Dufresne, the central character played by Tim Robbins in “The Shawshank Redemption.” Andy is revealed to be innocent despite serving consecutive life sentences for his wife and her lover’s alleged murder since 1950. The play follows his difficult 20-year journey within Shawshank. Street delivers an exceptional performance, blending meekness with calm cunning reminiscent of Jamie Foxx’s character in the film “Collateral.” Both characters ultimately outsmart their captors. Red is amazed by Andy’s ability to manipulate Warden Stammas, comparing it to playing a banjo and plucking a chicken.

Snarky, Slick Scott

Scott Treadway plays corrupt, weasely, deceitful prison warden Stammas. His characters have ranged from daffy goofs to dastardly villains in 41 years with the FRP. He grinned when telling the Tribune that, as the power-hungry warden, he is “the most selfishly horrific, despicable person.”

Treadway aims for the audience to “hate me, and cheer” for main characters’ fate. Mission accomplished. He succeeds with mostly snarky subtlety, and eventual outrage. Stammas barks at Andy, “You’ll do whatever I tell you to do, whenever I tell you to.”

His main henchman is tall, sadistic guard Bryon Hadley (Ryan Knowles). He’s even easier to despise. The oppressive guards are called “screws.”

Solitary confinement cells are rat-infested and reek of sewage. An exposed, large sewage pipe also symbolizes the prison as a social cesspool. The Shank is full of “violence and corruption,” Red notes. Andy remarks, “One moment you feel you’re somebody. The next moment, it’s gone.”

Red’s Salvation

Red loses hope for eventual parole, after several failed requests, Pallister noted. But, he sees “salvation” for Red. “It’s the ability to forgive yourself, and find purpose.” In contrast, he sees “redemption” (as in the play’s title) for Andy.

The play’s director, Lisa K. Bryant, said of the storyline that “I don’t believe that any human should be judged by the worst moment of (his/her) life.” Indeed, the play is about redemption for past transgressions and overcoming misfortune. Several are imprisoned for murdering their wives.

There are major plot twists, with one involving $370,000. Yet the play is primarily a character piece that contrasts the main duo. Red is “Mr. Get Things” (pot, wine) for other inmates. Red eventually gains a sense of hope from survivor Andy, who urges that “you must never give up hope.”

Andy’s Resilience

Street admires how his character Andy adjusts to prison life in some ways, but often fights back to preserve dignity. “Andy won’t give up the best part of himself,” despite being surrounded by hardened criminals who harm him, Street said. “He’s not changing” his basic nature. “Andy stays hopeful, despite the institutionalized horror and dehumanization. He makes the decision to (retain) his strength of character.”

Andy literally has it rough in The Shank. The Sisters Gang assaults him. Paul Vonasek is convincing as jolly bully Bogs Diamond, the gang leader. After he loses to Andy in chess, he insists he’s still the “king” and Andy a “pawn.” Matt Wade steals scenes as Bogs’ lunatic sidekick, Rooster. Also amusing is lanky Tommy Williams (John Selby). He admits he has “sh!t for brains.”

Banker Andy eventually finds his niche in prison. He utilizes his financial skills, and bargains with guards. First, he helps Hadley with lucrative tax-free advice, then does guards’ tax returns. Andy gets transferred to the plush job of running the prison library. He “cooks the books” to conceal the warden’s wide-scale money laundering. He’s so valuable that way, the warden doesn’t want him ever freed. Stammas stifles Andy-freeing evidence.

Special Effects

Bonuses are Bill Muñoz’s tastefully choreographed beatdown scenes, dark mood lighting, crisp sound, and projection designer Patrick Lord’s images on the stage’s blank back wall. Those illusions include prison cells, the library, and a climactic shift in scenery.

The Shawshank Redemption runs through Sunday, June 30. Tickets are going fast. Check www.flatrockplayhouse.org/the-shawshank-redemption.