Correctional Association, Now a Producer of a Lament Against the Police

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From The New York Times:

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‘Lyrics From Lockdown’ at National Black Theater


It’s not every day that you see the Correctional Association of New York listed among the producers of an Off Off Broadway show, much less a truly polished, meaningful and entertaining one. But there it is on the program of “Lyrics From Lockdown,” right below the National Black Theater and right above the father-and-daughter team Harry and Gina Belafonte. And for this subject, it makes sense. Bryonn Bain (whose first name rhymes with Leon) has written and performs the story of his ridiculously unjustified 2002 arrest and detainment by the New York Police Department as a spoken-word-poetry and musical solo show, heavy on the hip-hop but including calypso and blues. He has style and considerable talent, and his lyrics — a stirring mix of lament and demand — pack a punch.

From the first number, in which “brothers harden up their hearts on Marcus Garvey Boulevard,” Mr. Bain has something important to say and says it eloquently. This production, directed by Mei Ann Teo, is not much like “The Exonerated,” the stage and television project that takes a long-term, big-picture approach to numerous cases of wrongful imprisonment. This is Mr. Bain’s individual story of what that experience is like on the inside, although he does include a subplot about Nanon Williams, a Texas death row inmate who was convicted of a killing that he may have only witnessed — at age 17.

Mr. Bain introduces us to his family members as well. I am particularly fond of the character of his mother: a deeply religious woman who goes to church even on Wednesday but will pull a switchblade on you in a second.

Don’t read this next sentence if you plan to see “Lyrics From Lockdown” and love satisfying surprises, O.K.? Go away.

Once Mr. Bain gets into a courtroom, the prosecutor has to recuse himself because he knows the defendant. From Harvard Law School.

“Lyrics From Lockdown” continues through Feb. 24 at the National Black Theater, 2031 Fifth Avenue, near 125th Street, East Harlem;, (212) 722-3800.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 15, 2013

An earlier version of this review referred incorrectly to the events described in the show. They are based on Mr. Bain’s account of his arrest in 2002, which he described in an article for The Village Voice in 2003, not on his account of a 1999 arrest that was published in The Voice in 2000. That is why the earlier version of the review said that “the details of the opening events here bear minimal resemblance” to those in the 2000 article, and thus it is not the case that Mr. Bain “has decided to alter the facts of his own story.”

A version of this review appeared in print on February 15, 2013, on page C10 of the New York edition with the headline: Correctional Association, Now a Producer of a Lament Against the Police.