A Raw LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE Vividly Depicts a Stacked Justice System

LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE /written by Warren Doody/directed by Susan K. Berkompas/Edgemar Center for the Arts/thru November 5, 2016

In the American Coast Theatre Company’s West Coast premiere of LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE, playwright Warren John Doody has brilliantly adapted Dr. Elizabeth Dermody Leonard’s verbatim transcripts of interviewed, incarcerated women into a brutal, unrelenting look at our current justice system. Susan K. Berkompas directs her very talented and committed cast with the precision of a surgeon in a tightly-paced, illustrative narrative of what put these five women in prison. They each were found guilty of murdering their respective abusive husbands or boyfriends.

Before the three-person parole board, the main focal character of Helen receives grilling and interrogation more apt for a foreign terrorist bomber than for a mild-mannered grandmother rehabilitating herself in prison for the last 25 years. Vivian Vanderwerd totally inhabits her character of Helen, the object of years of spousal abuse. Vanderwerd easily exhibits Helen’s frustrations, confusion, protective maternal love of her daughter Debby, and the always present fear of being physically beat up, as well as constantly demeaned. The parole board, led by Kellerman (unapologetically played by Brock Joseph as a total assh*le) attempt to decide if Vivian remains a danger to society and if she shows remorse in her murderous deed. Mark Piatelli has the unsavory task of performing the creepy, disgusting behaviors of the three abusers depicted. Piatelli also does quadruple duty as one of the parole board with Virginia Brown sturdy as the by-the-book Shaeffer, the third of the freedom-deciding parole board.

Read more at Broadway World.