Actor, singer, and writer Meghan Gardiner has penned a searing new play about retribution called Gross Misconduct, running from Thursday (March 14) to March 23 at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre. Produced by SpeakEasy Theatre, directed by Kayvon Khoshkam, and starring Ian Butcher and Mike Gill, it tells the story of a 55-year-old Millhaven Institution prisoner who suddenly gets his first cellmate in 20 years: Corey, a young rich kid. They form a complex bond, navigate the threats of violence at the jail, and slowly open up about the crimes they committed. We asked Gardiner three questions about the work.
Q. For this play, you go into a prison cell. This seems like new territory for you—what took you to that confined space for Gross Misconduct?
A. I wanted to see men engage other men on the topic of violence against women, so I searched for a hypermasculinized setting. Because I am also tackling punishment versus rehabilitation, a prison seemed like the perfect setting.
Q. You focus tightly on two cellmates—one older and one younger. What did you discover about their dynamic?
A. I discovered that while a hockey debate can unite even the most unlikely pair, so can prison. When you are reduced to nothing but a number, a bond inevitably forms despite age, background, and experience.
Q. Can people ever really be redeemed? Did you get closer to answering that while writing the play?
A. I don’t know if people really can be redeemed, each situation is so unique. So the question I am wrestling with is “Should everyone be given the chance, when we don’t know what the outcome will be?”