Guest Review from Angel Belsey
Finding a partner to come with me to see The Enchanted at The Bunker was a surprisingly tough sell. It turns out many people have a strong emotional reaction, bordering on complete aversion, to all things related to the death penalty. Fortunately for any audience member who may have been suffering from a similar concern, The Enchanted is a story less about the death penalty than it is about people, relationships, kindness and unkindness.
The play is wholly rooted in humanity—even as it outlines the consequences that can occur when humanity gets forgotten. In the primary narrative strand of The Enchanted, a prisoner tells us the story of his fellow inmate, York, who is racing against the clock in an attempt to stop his execution going ahead (though York sometimes asserts that he wants to die). Working to help York is a woman known only as The Lady. The Lady is a death penalty investigator—someone who works to build a defense against an inmate’s execution by finding out what happened and looking for anything that might convince a judge to extend mercy to the condemned person. Woven together with York’s story we learn more about The Lady, as well as her counterpart, The Priest, and the prisoner who is doing the narration. It is at this point that the play falters a little bit; it is easy to explore the background of characters fully in a novel, but finding the right balance between rumination and forward action is harder for a stage production, and I’m not sure the play gets that balance exactly right.
Having said that, though, I found the character development intriguing, and I would absolutely read the Rene Denfield novel of the same name that this work is based on. At times, the subject matter is excruciatingly bleak, and some particularly difficult moments set in the prisoners’ childhoods are told through puppetry. In fact, the puppetry in combination with occasional dance elements and the simple staging made this production less a play and more a Happening—one with an important message about how imperative it is that we take care of each other.