“The Shawshank Redemption” onstage: Still great, still relevant

The North American Premiere of “The Shawshank Redemption” at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre is a must-see. The play is as good as the movie and relevant to modern criminal justice issues.

Fans of “Shawshank” will notice the play more resembles the book than the movie, but here each actor portrays their own version of their character to perfection.

The script was well written for the stage, and the direction of the play made it feel like the audience was a part of it.

Toward the beginning, parts of the play may make some uncomfortable with nudity and physicality used to portray real hurt. All the actors had a tense chemistry that seemed to feel like every bit of the hardcore prison in which they are set.

Lighting did justice to the play with a dark scary vibe in each scene. Prop and scene exchange, along with the music, showed the years passing in a creative manner.

Red, played by Keenan Ramos, as expected is not Morgan Freeman. He is instead a version of Red. Ramos played the role with sophistication. He was a fine narrator and played his character well overall.

Andy Dufresne, played by Chris Roady, was perfect. Roady’s talents were especially evident during scenes that involved emotional dialogue. When he got to his tipping point, emotions could be felt within the audience.

Ramos’ and Roady’s connection on stage took a while to build, as the characters did in the script, but by the end it is clear that every man needs someone to rely on.

Another character that stood out was Warden Stammas, played by S.E. Perry. The character was played as if the devil were a person. Every time Perry spoke, the scenes would turn tense with evilness, and the lighting became red.

The way the theater is set up allows audience members to be up close, making every bit of the play realistic.

This adaption of Stephen King’s “The Shawshank Redemption” by Owen O’Neil and Dave Johns was amazing; perfect for the stage.

A lot goes on during the scenes. Every actor on stage is always busy doing something, regardless of whether or not they have any lines. Director Bob Paisley did justice to the playwrights as the live version poetically moved across the stage.

Whether you’re a long-time fan or have never heard of “Shawshank,” the relevancy of this play makes it one not to be missed. The up-close and personal story the actors tell leaves everything on the stage.

“The Shawshank Redemption” is showing at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theater through April 21. Students tickets are $25.

garyenriquebradley-lopez@mail.umkc.edu

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