Back in 2011, actress Sherie Rene Scott and writer Dick Scanlan began leading a workshop for inmates at an upstate New York prison where inmates got the chance to share their personal narratives. This experience led Scott and Scanlan to write a play based on their work with the prisoners. It is called "Whorl Inside a Loop" and it just opened Off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theater. NY1’s Roma Torre filed the following review.
Sherie Rene Scott and her excellent collaborators are doubly blessed with their new play set in a prison. "Whorl Inside a Loop" is both dramatically rewarding and very topical. With prison reform in the spotlight these days, the play offers much needed insight. However, more than anything else it is also highly entertaining.
Mixing fact with fiction; it's based on Scott's experiences working alongside her co-writer and the play's co-director Dick Scanlan in a maximum security prison. They devised a program that enabled the inmates to tell their personal stories theatrically. It turned out to be, for all concerned, a life-changing venture.
In the play, Scott is simply known as "The Volunteer," and the story unfolds through her perspective - arriving at the prison with the expected awkwardness and discomfort a woman would feel surrounded by a roomful of convicted murderers. As they all loosen up, we get to know each one of them, less as hardened criminals and more as individuals with troubled lives. The actual prisoners are given an "Additional Material" credit.
Fans of Scott's biographical musical "Everyday Rapture," produced with the same writing directing team of Scanlan and Michael Mayer, will once again enjoy that seamless blend of humor and pathos here. "Whorl..." can be genuinely funny, but never at the expense of the characters. In addition, when the stories turn serious, we are utterly gripped. Credit the writing, which rises to poetic lyricism, but also the sensational cast playing 22 roles between the six male actors. And on that virtually bare stage in the same prison costumes, they transform themselves from character to character with absolute conviction.
Amid its many virtues, "Whorl Inside a Loop," a symbolic reference to a fingerprint term, still needs some work, particularly in the final scenes which are unnecessarily ambiguous. That aside, the play is, pardon the pun, truly captivating.