The Prisoner – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

A prison is usually a formidable concrete structure, with steel bars and armed guards charged with keeping the inmates contained. One can also create a prison in one’s own mind, a secluded sanctuary where you can retreat and live trapped in your own thoughts. Neither one is easy to escape. Most of our daily 65.000 thoughts repeat over and over again day after day.

The Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven is inviting you to make an intimate acquaintance with “The Prisoner” written and directed by Peter Brook and Marie-Helene Estienne making its U.S. premiere until Saturday, November 17. It may engage your mind and imagination, trouble you with its implications and wake up thought provoking ideas.

Hayley Carmichael serves as the narrator, a woman bent on adventure and discovery, on a journey with nature as her goal. On her trek, she happens upon a man sitting outside a prison, staring at the edifice as if willing himself inside its gates. The man, Mavuso, a deeply troubled Hiran Abeysekera, has been sentenced to stay in that small space, contained by mere sticks on the ground, without walls, for twenty years until he achieves redemption.

Mavuso has committed a heinous crime: he has killed his father. The reasons are complicated and shrouded with guilt. He discovered his father sleeping with Nadia, the sister he himself loves inappropriately. Does he kill his father to save his sister or out of jealousy for his own feelings?

His sister Nadia, who may have acted out of compassion for her father’s loneliness after his wife’s death, comes to visit her brother, to console him and to tell him the news of her pregnancy. Kalieaswari Srinivasan as Nadia is as much in a prison as her brother. Their uncle Ezekiel, who knew what was happening and did nothing to stop the incest, is also not blameless in the crime. It is he who takes the baby from Nadia, after having sentenced Mavuso to his fate.

Herve Goffings as the uncle steps in to take the child and is as much in exile as his niece and nephew. Mavuso is visited by his family and by Omar Silva in his role as guard and man, but little relieves his punishment as he thinks about his crime and faces the dire consequences of his own actions.

For tickets ($ 26-92), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at 203-432-1234 or online at Performances are Tuesday at 8 p.m., Wednesday at 2 pm. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 pm. and8 p.m.

“The Prisoner” is very much a cerebral play, where your thoughts dictate your feelings, as you identify with a man weighing his own actions against the rituals of atonement, the burden of never forgetting and the need for truth and reconciliation.

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