Monday, September 9, 2019

Exit Strategy: ☼ ☼

Some very good performances come close to rescuing Ike Holter's "Exit Strategy." This tale about the enforced closing of a Chicago public school tries to hit all the right themes -- unequal education, racism, gentrification, poverty, even the results of a suicide. But in the end none get dealt with in anything but the most simplistic manner. We know from the moment the show begins how it is going to end. Here we are in 2019 and Mr. Holter's lesson appears to be: "Give Up. Do Nothing. You Have No Chance."

Margo Hall has a short role as a disgruntled black teacher dealing with a clueless white administrator. We like her a lot, as always, but she is in and then out, except for two subsequent short appearances which add very little to the story. Ricky, the administrator, is played by Adam Niemann. Dense, socially inept and gay, Ricky is also carrying on a secret affair with Luce (Ed Gonzalez Moreno). Ricky is a mess. He may be trying to be a hero, or he may be a traitor. We never know.

We get the spicy Latina (Gabriella Fanuele), the disgruntled old man (Michael J. Asberry) and the loud-talking big-heart (Sam Jackson). All are fine actors, but no one has much to offer to the resolution of this story. Only Donnie (Tre'vonne Bell), a High School Senior who appears to be the one person in the school who understands the internet, has any plan at all.

The big problem is we never find out what that plan is. Everything happens off stage. And maybe it is successful and maybe it isn't, but none of this matters. As we keep being reminded, victory is not possible. The man triumphs. The poor lose. The only way out is a bullet in the head. Geez, what a depressing story.


As you can tell, The San Francisco Theater Blog is in a grumpy mood. We award "Exit Strategy" Two Stars, one for James Ard's very cool sound track and one for Kate Boyd's painfully accurate teacher's lounge. 

Art is not supposed to make you feel good. It is meant to challenge. We wish we weren't familiar with the issues written about here - but we are. We don't feel challenged by "Exit Strategy." It just makes us sad.

"Exit Strategy"
The Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison Street, Berkeley
Through Sep 29

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