Profiles Theatre’s AFTER Is A Brilliant Story Of Societal Reintegration

Some of my fellow colleagues in the legal world work and volunteer for the Innocence Project, a non-for-profit developed at Cardozo Law School whose mission is to get the innocent released from prison mainly through DNA testing as well as reforming the very broken criminal justice system. Northwestern Law School has also adopted this program. When I was in law school almost twenty years ago now, we were taught that that sending someone to prison is a social attempt to rehabilitate them back to function in a “society”. That is not the case in the real world. Prisoners who re-enter society are left to fend for themselves in a world in which they are shunned and even worse, inherently emotionally unstable and left to try learn basic stills in a world that has become techno-focused.

Chad Beckham’s 2011 play After, which is receiving its Midwest premiere at Profiles Theatre, is a well researched, carefully crafted piece of theater that shows this reintegration into society of a man who is proven innocent after 17 years of being falsely imprisoned for rape.

In the opening scene we find Monte, played by the brooding and sensational J. Salome Martinez, staring at the remints of his welcome home party thrown by his sister Liz, the perfectly cast Alice Da Cunha. Liz reminds Monte that his time in prison was not spent in a bubble and that other people were deeply effected by his absence. As the play progresses, we see Monty trying his best to figure out the most basic things we take for granted, almost like watching a child being taught to walk for the first time. The only difference is this is a grown man full of rage and can explode at any minute. Mr. Beckham’s work masterfully weaves in and out of this emotional pathos as we are introduced to characters that test Monty’s resolve. From a priest seeking absolution to a jealous boyfriend who is lucky Monty is not Bruce Banner, the play is a fascinating study into a rarely acknowledge truth of our society.

Director Matt Hawkins finely tunes his actors in After, which is important because in the wrong hands, this play can get out of hand and can easily be over dramatized. The supporting characters are all first rate, including Stephenie Park as the scary and loveable Susie; Gabriel Ruiz as Warren, who I have a feeling taught Mitt Romney how to strap a dog to a roof a car; Foster William, Jr. as the doubting priest and Carlos Rogelio Diaz as a menacing Eddie.

After is an important piece of theater as it gives a glimpse into a growing number of people who are dealing with this issue of re-integration. On a small scope After deals with real human drama; on a bigger scale, After shines light on a very broken criminal justice system which has become a political animal focused on punishment no matter what the ultimate cost is to society.

Profiles Theatre’s After by Chad Beckim and directed by Matt Hawkins runs through October 14, 2012 at The Alley Stage, 4147 N. Broadway St., Chicago. call 773-549-1815, www,profilestheatre.org, tickets are $35- $40, Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 5 and 8 pm, sundays at 7pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through October 14, 2012