HotCity Theatre got off to a blistering start last November with a compelling Readers Theater production of The Exonerated
, a tidy piece of advocacy theater about inmates unjustly sentenced to death row. The script by Jessica Blank and Erik Jansen is clearly a polemic. But the production was a knockout: the moody sound design by Nathan Ruyle, lighting by Don Guy that lent stature to characters who sometimes were shortchanged by their own limited vocabularies. Ted Gregory's direction was impeccably seamless. And the cast -- including Lavonne Byers, Ron Himes, Steve Isom, Dennis Lebby, Robert A. Mitchell and William Whitaker -- personified the deep end of the St. Louis acting pool. HotCity (a fusion of HotHouse and City Theatre) could not have hoped for a more auspicious kickoff; audiences could not have hoped for a more breathtaking evening of theater.