Marsha Norman’s Getting Out, first produced in 1979, portrays the grim dilemma of a woman just released from prison. Arlene has been driven to her bare-bones Louisville, Kentucky, apartment by a prison guard, Benny, who actually retired from his job for the chance to be with her — though his intentions are highly ambiguous.
Over the next 24 hours, Arlene endures two near-rapes, a visit from her apparently psychotic mother, and a slew of bad memories — including a longing for the baby, a child of rape, thatshe was forced to give up. She’s closed down, vigilant and unsure of how to perform the most ordinary tasks of daily life. And then there’s her younger self, Arlie, portrayed by a second actor, violent and half mad as a result of repeated rapes by her father and months spent in prison lockdown.
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On stage, these two figures exist in separate worlds: teenage Arlene trapped forever in her prison cell, while the adult version deals with the uncertain present. Arlene’s possible savior, the woman who might provide friendship and understanding as she labors to knit her discordant selves together, is a kindly, unsentimental neighbor, an ex-con herself who confirms that while post-prison life is and will remain grim, impoverished and circumscribed, there’s pleasure in even this limited freedom.
Although there are many woman in America as haunted and battered by life as Arlene, Norman’s script still feels shrill and melodramatic as misfortune piles on misfortune. It doesn’t help that the Edge Theater production utilizes exaggerated Southern accents that make the characters feel less than real and is conducted at a pitch that’s way too high and loud. Despite this, Getting Out is worth seeing for the strength and quiet conviction of Missy Moore’s Arlene.
Getting Out, presented by the Edge Theater Company through April 3, 1560 Teller Street, Lakewood, 303-232-0363, theedgetheater.com.