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April 5, 2004 // UPDATED 1:07 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Anna Pratt
Anna Pratt

'The Exonerated'

"The Exonerated" opens a violent wound in the American trial system as it illustrates the dire testimonies of those eclipsed by misfortune and prejudice. Stitching together the verbatim accounts of six innocents needlessly sentenced to death row, the play doesn't take a light look at justice. Journalism and drama meet halfway to illuminate the troubling accounts of Kerry Max Cook, Gary Gauger, Robert Earl Hayes, Sunny Jacobs, David Keaton and Delbert Tibbs.

Writers Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen (formerly of Apple Valley) trekked across the U.S. to compile the graphic stories of 40 out of then 89 death row prisoners who were eventually proven innocent. The prisoners reflected many different nationalities, faiths, ages, genders and classes, and had served anywhere from two to 22 years on death row before being freed by the state.

A bare stage and spare props intimates the singular importance of these horrific narratives. The 10 actors who portray the prisoners, prosecutors, policemen and witnesses collectively call into question the integrity of the death penalty. This is the first theatrical production to receive the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Champion of Justice Award. Among other badges of honor, Court TV also gave it the Scales of Justice Award.

April 6-11, Tuesday-Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m., and

Sunday, 1 and 6:30 p.m. The Historic State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Ave. S. $20-$62. 673-0404.

'Monsters, Inc. on Ice'

My childhood bedroom was haunted. The straw hats that hung from the bedposts often morphed into the shadow of a prowler. I didn't like the closet to stay open during the night, since hangers and dresses also fashioned seedy silhouettes in the dark. The sound effects of creaking floors, warped by wind and pressure, or the honky-tonk clank of laundry room machinery often tripped fears of nearby burglars.

Once, a large, rectangular light filled the window perfectly symmetrically. It turned off and on, at regular intervals. Someone was definitely stalking me. Another evening, a shaking fern became the haughty outline of someone laughing as he peeked thru the window. I closed my eyes just slightly, so I could still see beneath my trembling eyelids. I didn't move for hours. I tried not to breathe too loudly. I looked outside the window in the morning, where I'd imagined a hairy fern and observed a vacant space instead.

The penchant for envisioning such scary monsters is the gasoline that powers the monster city of Monstropolis and animates the Disney/Pixar fuzzy nightmare, "Monsters, Inc.," on ice. Full of suspicious creaking noises, blinding fluorescent lights and closets that present uninvited guests (i.e. one-eyed Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan), Monstropolis is a mini Disney World gone wrong. Run not by smiles or laughs of children who believe storybook characters are real, it thrives on the terror it inspires from kids like pint-sized Boo.

The ice arena is about to become a terrifying factory that produces (naturally) children's bedroom phantoms, accessorized with scare stations, 50 swirling closet doors, bossman Mr. Waternoose and file clerk Roz. Prepare for the daily scream rounds; experience traces of the Child Contamination Scare, or "2319," and be awed by the larger-than-life monster figure skaters and acrobats when Boo crawls into the hands of a couple of kind-hearted monsters.

April 7-11; Wednesday, 7 p.m.; Thursday-Friday, 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.; Saturday, 11:30 a.m.,

3:30 and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. The Target Center, 601 1st Ave. N. $13.50-$57.50. 651-989-5151.

Anna Pratt can be reached at annapratt@artlover.com.