Presented by Uriah’s Granddaughter Productions
In the late 1950s, a small cell in a Midwestern US Women’s prison is the setting for a friendship that develops between a woman on death row, June (Jesse McQueen) and a prison guard, Parker (Bonnie Anderson). Written and directed by Gillian R. Edwards, June develops their relationship with steady efficiency that still allows their dynamic plenty of room to breath.
The dialogue feels like a pastiche of nostalgic Americana; despite a handful of clunky moments, the cast does fine job of selling it as natural. The men in her life—the charming yet abusive Richard (Jacob Klick) and her love-lorn friend Geoff (Daniel Christian Jones)—have the most stylized performative aesthetic. Their ample charisma seems almost desperate, as if masculinity itself is acknowledged here as a form of performance.
Richard is the least overtly sympathetic of the foursome, yet Edwards and Klick still find some vulnerable humanity in him. We are drawn more fully into Geoff’s plight as he abandons his facade quite easily, making him—in a cruel irony—more emotionally accessible to June. Most scenes with the men come in the form of memory, these flashbacks providing context for June’s incarceration.
Daniel Bowden’s set is classic, practical Fringe minimalism. A cot, a table and some chairs with a small, backlit barred frame suggesting a cell. This simple little prison window remains lit during darkened scene transitions, an eerie reminder that June has not and will not ever leave.
Each of the characters is given a brief, fourth wall-breaking monologue where where we glimpse their experience of the situation. The most affecting is Parker’s, though the final lines were a little preachy for my taste—an impassioned plea which actually undermines the impact of the intimate, evocative details she vividly conveys leading up to this declaration.
Though it veers uncomfortably close at times, this drama never becomes cloying. And the final moment between McQueen and Parker is truly wrenching.