nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
October 21, 2011
Prison Light begins with Elizabeth urging her husband Parker to come to bed. He's been writing letters—apparently hundreds of them—and his obsession is wearing her out; she needs him to get some sleep. Parker's obsession is the key subject of this play.
He is hearing, he says, the voices of two prisoners, and he is determined to find them and free them. At first, playwright Austin Flint places these prisoners in a no-man's-land that could be reality and could be delusion: it's clear that Parker is the only one who is aware of them, and it's equally clear that Parker believes in their authenticity, going so far in one scene as to attempt to purchase some tools to help dig them out of their cell. But as the play progresses, the notion that the prisoners are in fact a metaphor for something else emerges.
Parker's real life is exhibited in scenes surrounding his encounters with the prisoners. We meet his boss, Pembroke, a petty tyrant who makes his accounting job hell. And we meet a co-worker named George, who is a go-with-the-flow sort of fellow, and who looks just like the guy who owns the hardware store and a stranger whom Parker encounters near the "prison." Most compellingly, we get to know Elizabeth (portrayed with depth and complexity by Danielle Slavick), and for me it was her journey through Parker's mania that propelled the play most meaningfully.
Director Reagan and collaborators Andreea Mincic (set), Ramsey Scott (costumes), Ellie Rabinowitz (lighting), and Elizabeth Rhodes (sound) provide elements of visual and auditory interest. But what the play finally seemed to be saying—that Parker needs to let go of his worries and just live in more of a moment-to-moment manner—felt simplistic and trite, belying the imagery and theatricality in evidence on stage.