“An eccentric prisoner is surprised when a man in a suit digs up through his prison cell. Somewhere between Plato and Play-doh, This Prison: or He Came Through the Floor is a thought provoking comedy filled with slap-stick madness and tea-time philosophy.”
Should you see it?
This Prison has an interesting concept and set-up. It is about a Prisoner has been in his cell so long that it, and the guard who makes occasional rounds, have become his entire world. Today is his big day, the day in which Mr. Warden has a surprise for him.
While waiting for it, a man in a tuxedo tunnels up through the floor into his cell shouting Ta-da.
Tuxedo is straight man to Prisoner’s mad-hatter brand of crazy, and it works really well. The contrast and conflict between the two makes for some great comedy and the both Johnny Wideman (who also wrote and directed) and Benjamin Wert are exceptional in their roles.
There’s also some interesting existential philosophy in the script that attempts to apply on a meta, look at how this applies to the real world kind of way. Maybe?
The truth is, part of me feels like I missed the point. While it is a funny and well acted play, there were things. Things like why is Tuxedo wearing a tux? He says at one point that it would take a bit to explain – but he never does. He also gives no explanation as to why he’s chosen to help Prisoner, spending years uncovering evidence of his innocence, and months digging a tunnel (also having never apparently learned prisoner’s name or seen a photo). These are big logic jumps that need to be addressed.
There’s huge potential for This Prison – if some of those things are toned down or addressed – to be a beautifully tragic story. As is, it’s impossible to connect with either man on a deeper level without knowing their desires and motivations. So I left confused about the point of it all.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. Did I miss something or was This Prison funny but not much else? Why was Tuxedo dressed that way? Join the discussion in the comments below.