Gross Misconduct by Meghan Gardiner

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Gross Misconduct by Meghan Gardiner

Deke, early fifties, is one of the rare ones who has been in the assessment unit of Millhaven Penitentiary longer than the standard 30-60 days. Twenty years ago, he was sentenced to a misdemeanor, but earned a life sentence when he killed his cellmate in cold blood. Corey, early twenties, is not aware of this and Deke, having not had a cellmate since the murder, is not too thrilled when this young punk joins him in his 6 X 9 foot cell. Corey was only convicted of aggravated assault, so Deke is unaware that there was an additional charge of aggravated sexual assault that was too difficult to prove. Corey knows that it’s only a matter of time however until that comes out and prisoners don’t take too kindly to rapists. To make matters worse, Gareth, a shady, yet overly enthusiastic prison guard, abuses his powers and blackmails Corey. Sex for protection. The same morning Corey arrives, Deke receives a book in the mail, a memoir written by ‘Abigail’ detailing life after her brutal rape. He voraciously reads it, and while it initially seems that Deke might be Abby’s rapist, we eventually learn that he is her brother. Not only that, Abby’s rapist was the cellmate that Deke killed twenty years ago in prison. 

Initially, the two unaware prisoners have nothing in common and the first few hours are tense and strained. Eventually Corey makes mention of the NHL, and the inmates begin a spirited, if not angered, discussion on hockey. Over the next several days, a bond forms between the two and the days look a little less bleak for both of them. That is, until the truth of Corey’s crime is revealed, and Deke must confront the urges earned him a life sentence twenty years ago.  Here he is, face to face with another rapist that will probably be out in a year. Tensions rise as the nature their individual crimes are debated, and questions arise as to why Abby’s rapist was put in Deke’s cell twenty years ago, and why Corey is in there now. Gareth informs Deke that the warden is expecting the same outcome and has his own reasons for wanting justice. His daughter had been sexually assaulted over twenty years ago, and justice was not served in that case either. A father’s anger created a warden who has his own way of dealing with sex offenders who don’t get convicted. 

Due to the politics of prison and an intolerance for sex offenders, a target is placed on Corey’s head. He begs Deke to help him stay alive, and Deke is faced with a moral and ethical dilemma. Has he experienced any redemption or rehabilitation in the last twenty years, or is he the same 30-year old that was so quick to avenge? Through the memories and experiences created with Abigail, the book Deke is reading begins to slowly parallel his current situation and he realizes he made Abby’s life worse by killing her rapist. As events continue to unfold in the prison, Deke is brought face to face with the same decision he was forced to make twenty years ago and comes to the realization that forgiveness is a much more powerful decision. He foregoes parole by refusing to kill Corey, but Gareth throws Corey to the wolves and his fate is presumed to be far from the privileged life he once led, all for a mistake he didn’t even think was rape. And yet it was. Deke and Abigail try to begin again, try to gain some semblance of what was lost between them. The hope is that it might work.

Produced by  SpeakEasy Theatre, presented by the Gateway Theatre, Vancouver, March 2019

Keywords: Metoo Timesup Redemption Punishment Sexual Assault Patriarchy Privilege
Genre: Drama
Run time: 90 minutes
Acts: 1
Male roles: 3
Female roles: 1
"Meghan Gardiner’s sharply intelligent new drama, Gross Misconduct, at first seems like a return to the old-style prison play. Brutally violent and full of vicious ironies,it turns out to be something more."
- Jerry Wasserman, The Vancouver Sun
"The audience...must examine not only the morally grey areas each character inhabits, but also the ways in which we all contribute to the rape culture of today."
- Samuel Jing, The Georgia Straight