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Students Tackle False Confession in America Legacy Theatre’s “All In Your Head”

Review by Christiana Molldrem Harkulich of “All in Your Head”: American Legacy Theatre

Title: Students tackle False Confession in A.L.T’s “All In Your Head” 

The American Legacy Theatre’s current offering, “All In Your Head”, is the world premiere by the 2019 Junior Board–a group of high-school students in a 12-week intensive designed to give space and voice to social issues and themes they want to address. This original work takes us on a journey into the mind of Calum Fischer, a high-school student who is suspected by the police of sexually assaulting his crush and classmate Molly Thomas. Calum believes he didn’t do it, but during his long interrogation, he falsely confesses to the crime. The 2019 Junior Board (Caitlin Walsh, Alex Pham, Jonah Sorscher, and Davey Pleshinger) wrote and perform this piece inspired generally by the prevalence of false confession in our justice system and specifically, as Alex Pham told the audience in the talk-back, by his obsession with the Netflix Documentary “When They See Us” about the Central Park Five. 

The Junior Board program is an admirable project, and the students have created a piece that sparked questions for the audience about false confession. The confession to Detective Andrews (played with sincerity by Jonah Sorscher), is spoken in tandem between Calum (Alex Pham) and Molly (Caitlin Walsh–in this scene, Molly is a figment of Calum’s imagination). The sharing of lines between them adeptly played with truth and omission and is one of the strongest scenes in the play. 

In the final scene, Molly comes to see Calum in jail to tell him that she knows it wasn’t him and that she hopes he’ll be out of jail soon. This is the first time in the play that we see the character of Molly where she isn’t a memory or a figment of Calum’s imagination, and Walsh made her journey and trauma believable. In the talk-back, one of the first questions was about this scene–if he’s innocent shouldn’t he be free? Walsh answered this question with clear passion and knowledge, telling the audience members that often, even when the confession is proved false, it can take a very long time for someone to exit the prison system despite their innocence. For a group focused on social justice, drawing attention to this issue, and getting the audience to pay attention to this problem, was the point, and it was clearly successful.

“All In Your Head” has limited design, which lets the audience focus closely on the work of the actors. The writing takes on a big idea and has some plot holes, but none too large to deflect the play’s goal. Music choices, like Blink 182’s “What’s My Age Again” made me wonder what year the play was set- although that may be the point- false confession is not a new issue.

The final performance of this short run of “All in Your Head” is August 4th at 1 PM at The Carnegie Center of Columbia Tusculum (previous performances were in the auditorium of the Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy). 

It’s invigorating to see young theatre artists take on issues and create new work. I hope that in the future, the talk-back, which seemed just as important as the play, might be more focused and organized. I look forward to seeing what the 2020 Junior Board will create next year.