Released Says Don’t Do Drugs


Ultimately amounting to an advertisement for the Castle, the NYC residence for recently paroled convicts, Released presents an Off-Broadway play in which four of the establishment’s alumni recount eerily similar life stories involving broken homes, substance abuse, criminality, hard time in prisons, and arduous efforts to change once back on the outside. Both onstage and in traditional documentary interviews, Casimiro Torres, Kenneth Harrigan, Vilma Ortiz Donovan, and Angel Ramos eloquently speak about the many mistakes that led to their incarceration and the difficulties, once free, of establishing responsible adult identities. Throughout, their advocacy for education and hard work is earnest and affecting. And fortunately for them, the Castle provided the support network necessary to find employment, earn degrees, and discover a sense of self-worth—a point that emerges during the final third of Philip F. Messina’s film and, in the process, reveals the endeavor to be a thinly veiled (if stirring) commercial for the institution. More problematic is that, without providing real specifics about what differentiates the Castle from other outreach programs, Released comes off as a series of heartfelt testimonials that, despite their sincerity, have a limited scope beyond the usual don’t-do-drugs and go-to-school cautionary tales.