whatdoesfreemean? follows the journey of an African-American woman serving a long sentence for a drug offense. Mary ends up in solitary confinement where she struggles to maintain her sanity as she fights off hallucinations who appear as characters. The play takes the audience into her psychic world. We travel alongside her self-guided intellectual and emotional journey into the nature of freedom, both physical and psychological as Mary’s external and internal experience unfolds on stage in the present, in memory and the fantasies that help her survive.
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StageBuddy Review, Navida Stein “Not only is Ms. Filloux’s play gut-wrenching theater, it is also rooted in several years of research…all under the umbrella of compelling storytelling…Ms. Filloux’s anguished and at times poetic dialogue flows effortlessly in Ms. Strum’s interpretation…whatdoesfreemean? is at times uncomfortable viewing and Ms. Filloux is to be commended for stunningly weaving together unsparing scenes and theatrically fantastical elements with Mary’s straightforward story. The play educates us about women’s incarceration never veering into sentimentality or a movie of the week mentality. Through the beautiful, multi-facted character of Mary, Ms. Filloux’s whatdoesfreemean? offers a road map to finding freedom and hope even in the most despairing of circumstances.”
Onstage Blog Review, Tara Kennedy, “whatdoesfreemean? Nora’s Playhouse “With the pizazz of NYC’s high-end shows, audiences are dazzled into forgetting the quality of the script. With the black box presentation of whatdoesfreemean? one only has the actors and the words to focus on…Ms. Filloux’s text does a wonderful job of creating a fully-developed, likable, flawed character that the audience cares about… a woman in the audience spoke up about being a former inmate and how the play felt much like her experience ‘on the inside;’ at times, the play was difficult for her to watch. And it’s this woman’s reaction that is confirmation of the faithfulness of Ms. Filloux’s play to the experience of prison. But don’t take our word for it: come downtown and experience.”
TheaterScene Off-Broadway Review, Darryl Reilly, The heartbreaking saga of an African-American woman incarcerated for drug dealing is theatrically told through flashbacks, fantasy interludes and realism. “Documentary detail is blended with theatricality in playwright Catherine Filloux’s heartbreaking drama whatdoesfreemean?
Ms. Filloux combines the unraveling Mary’s redemptive journey with the suspense of whether she can mentally keep it together in order to obtain an early release…a searing and poignant narrative containing absurdist flourishes that include a talking laboratory mouse. The play is structured as a series of short pungent scenes. Filloux’s dialogue poetically conveys the harsh realities the underprivileged face.”
Exeunt NYC Off-Broadway Review, Ran Xia, whatdoesfreemean? at The Tank “The piece beautifully dissects a complex character whose criminality and morality should not be viewed as simply black and white and puts the effectiveness, as well as the inhumanity of our prison system under scrutiny…A contrast to the dark subject matter and graphic depiction of prison violence is a particularly brilliant and comedic scene where Mary converses with a mouse…Filloux’s play illuminates a crucial social issue. This is the second play I’ve seen in the past year or so by the human rights playwright about a woman in captivity, the previous one being Kidnap Road at La Mama. A woman lying in a cage has become a haunting, recurring image that I now associate with Filloux…Filloux’s play opens another window to a large-scale issue that deserves more attention.”