April Singer, Scot Atkinson, Ebony Jordan, Megan Brown &
(in front) Ryan Watson in The Exit Interview.
Photo-The Bard’s Town
The Exit Interview
By William Missouri Downs
Directed by Scot Atkinson
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2014 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
A bold and provocative new play just opened at The Bard’s Town, a heady debate of ideas cloaked in a swift and pointed satirical structure. The Exit Interview is post-modern funny and hugely appealing even if you don’t catch all of its self-referential humor.
Dick Fig (that’s RICHARD!) is a non-tenured professor at a small university whose termination includes a ludicrous exit interview with an administrator in a claustrophobically tiny office that is interrupted by a campus-shooting spree. Dick is an agnostic leaning towards Theism who is strident in challenging the comforting assumptions of faith and tradition in American society, and he is soon engaged in an argument with his inquisitor, who is both Christian and a devotee of The Secret.
But there is overt tribute to Berthold Brecht and examples of narrative disruption that bear his name that hilariously and unexpectedly shift the action, and absurdist exposition from cheerleaders who maintain their annoyingly effervescent energy despite being held at gunpoint. But for all the Brechtian business, the story is delivered with remarkable economy and precision. There may not be much mystery left at the end, but the play remains deeply satisfying.
Scot Atkinson directs and plays Dick Fig, and there is no evidence that the dual roles provide any strain. His quick-witted yet world-weary characterization reminds us once again that we need to see him onstage more often, while his good eye for staging and knack for raising the level of performance in his cast with telling detail well serves the highly individual material.
As Eunice, who conducts the exit interview, Ebony Jordan is deadpan and stalwart in the early going, but she does not squander the opportunity to go slightly off the rails in the later scenes. Cory Hardin displays sure timing and commitment in multiple roles, and Megan Brown also does confident work as another utility player. April Singer and Ryan Watson show the merits of attentiveness and focus on the moment, Ms. Singer delivering appropriate snap and crackle and Mr. Watson proving an indelible comic delight, particularly as an inexhaustibly cheerful priest in a flashback with Dick Fig. To watch him gauge the audience reaction and subtly adjust his timing was a lesson and a joy.
Playwright Downs cleverly observes how our understanding of information and ideas follow the shift in how they are delivered. The wealth of digital media has destroyed journalistic integrity, leaving hapless citizens to search for reason to believe based on the variety of questionable sources they encounter each day.
It is all quite enjoyable, and yet another illustration of the depth of new American plays available and an example of the continuing good taste of Doug Schutte and Scot Atkinson in choosing worthy material for lucky Louisville audiences.
The Exit Interview
May 8-18, 2014 @ 7:30pm
Tickets $15 ($12 for students/seniors), and available in advance at thebardstown.com
The Bards Town Theater
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205