Los Angeles Theater Review: EXIT STRATEGY (The Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Davidson/Valentini Theatre)

by Tony Frankel on October 13, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles

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EXIT TRAGEDY

Fierce, funny, and relevant under Deena Selenow’s choreographic direction, Ike Holter’s entertaining but uneven melodrama takes place in a Chicago high school that’s suffering from an image problem and a 40% graduation rate. There, a feckless assistant principal, five diverse, overloaded teachers and an intelligent, social media-savvy, system-fighting student will suffer triumph, defeat, resignation and resistance amid the quicksand of facts and bureaucracy. Who will rise to the challenge when the district announces plans to close the school at the end of the year? It’s awful difficult to persuade 3000 students to revolt when they don’t even have enough toilet paper.

Holter’s dynamic dialogue—which has sympathetic characters overlapping each other at times—sometimes feels too abundant and abstract, even at 90 minutes. One reason for this is that the opening scene between the daunting battle-scarred teacher Pam (a knockout Jane Macfie) and the utterly browbeat vice-principal Ricky (the multi-layered Adam Silver) is as sizzling as theater gets—but it never again hits this watermark. These two are the best-drawn characters, and we see precious little of Pam for the rest of the one-act; the others are left to bicker among each other about the best way to handle the situation (Remy Ortiz, playing an irreverent teacher involved with Ricky, is fascinating to watch). The one student character, who appears late in the play, positively electrifies and resuscitates the proceedings (it’s also a powerful performance from Luke Tennie), so I kept wondering why we didn’t meet parents or some district administrator to up the stakes and conflict.

So while it’s unfortunate that we’ll never see the two-act play Exit Strategy was meant to be, this in-the-round production at the LGBT Center—given top-notch treatment—is a recommended affair. There’s enough urgency (sometimes too much; shouting equals inaudibility) in this tiny space to power up a generating station, shining light on the brutal situation we have placed upon our educators.

photos by Michael Lamont and Se Hyun Oh

Exit Strategy
The Los Angeles LGBT Center and Sixth Avenue
Davidson/Valentini Theatre at the L.A. LGBT Center
The Village at Ed Gould Plaza; 1125 N. McCadden Place in Hollywood
Fri and Sat at 8; Sun at 7
ends on November 5, 2017
for tickets, call 323-860-7300 or visit LA Gay Center

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