In the American justice system, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. What happens if a person is sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit? Playwrights Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen face the issue of wrongful conviction head-on in their intense drama The Exonerated. Blank and Jensen traveled the country, interviewing people who had been freed from death row.
"We tried to be representative in terms of the demographics, and we wanted to highlight different aspects of this complicated issue," says Blank. The writers took great pains to ensure that their work left the audience with questions, rather than making an explicit, one-sided argument. Unfortunately there is one question The Exonerated cannot answer: How many innocent people have already lost their lives owing to the excruciating turns of the wheels of justice? "There's no legal avenue to bring a case back into the court system after an execution has happened. So there's no way of knowing, legally speaking, whether or not we've executed innocent people," Blank explains. Catch the opening tonight at 8:00 at the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre, 1312 Miller Dr., Coral Gables. Tickets cost $16. Call 305-284-3355, or visit www.miami.edu/ring. Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik
Johnny and Joan
A match made in musical heaven
Before the fabulously campy Mommie Dearest cemented Joan Crawford's reputation as a psychotic prima donna, there was Johnny Guitar, the strangest western musical this side of Clint Eastwood's Paint Your Wagon. The 1954 film was seen as ahead of its time for its idealized feminism and simmering Sapphic overtones, but most people enjoy Johnny Guitar for the arched-eyebrow antics of diva Crawford. Now there's Johnny Guitar the Musical, a rollicking remake that won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical Off-Broadway in 2004. Crawford fans will enjoy the irreverent interpretation of her imperious film persona, as well as songs like "Who Do They Think They Are?" and "What's in It for Me?" Take a Wild West spin on a Hollywood classic tonight at 8:00 at the Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables. Tickets cost $37.50. Call 305-444-9293, or visit www.actorsplayhouse.org. Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik
Quantum gets Closer to damaged goods
Directed by Mike Nichols, the film adaptation of Patrick Marber's award-winning play Closer earned Golden Globes for Natalie Portman and Clive Owen and featured one of Julia Roberts's darkest performances. (Jude Law, playing a vainglorious cad, was hardly acting.) For four and a half years, the lives of these four strangers intertwine through serendipitous meetings (and eventual cheatings), falling in and out of love, marriage and divorce. Tonight at 8:00 you can see how well UM's Quantum Entertainment handles the damaging, selfish relationships in its performance. The play runs through December 11 at UM's Hillel Theatre, 1100 Stanford Dr., Coral Gables. Tickets range from $8 to $15. Call 305-284-6399, or visit www.gotoquantum.com for a complete schedule. Lyssa Oberkreser
We're Ladies, Yo!
Society rebel and godmother of American theater Bessy Marbury and her power-packin' posse Elsie de Wolfe, Anne Vanderbilt, and Anne Morgan get busy in the world premiere of Alfred Allan Lewis's Ladies and Not So Gentle Women at the New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables. Tickets for tonight's 8:00 preview cost $20. The play runs through December 31. Call 305-443-5909, or visit www.new-theatre.org for a complete schedule. Lyssa Oberkreser