October 8, 2012
William Missouri Downs’ play, “The Exit Interview,” has everything in it including, I think, the kitchen sink. Cheerleaders? Check. Brechtian Alienation Effect? Check. A masked, armed terrorist? Check. About-to-be-unemployed college teacher? Check. Questions about the existence of God, the meaning of life, and the usefulness of product placement and Fox News? Check. Check. Check.
Whew. That’s a lot to cram into 90 minutes. And yet, the 90 minutes feels long. Oh, did I mention that the playwright appears on video to suggest some changes and rewrites, which the actors then dutifully perform, on book?
I’m exhausted just writing about it all.
There are some wonderfully smart and funny moments. But of all the new plays, how on earth did this one get chosen by the National New Play Network for a “rolling world premiere” that has productions opening in six cities around the country? (San Diego is the second so far).
Well, take what you can from it. Several lectures on Brecht, for instance (a couple too many, and too didactic). Some comical stuff about Faux (oops, I mean Fox) News. The importance of being a thinking person. In this election season, that’s more crucial than ever, but it’s hammered home repeatedly, with an oversized mallet.
So much promising stuff… so much overdoing! But the cast is terrific: six actors playing 20 characters, with humor and malleability.
See it for the performances. For the hyper enthusiasm and high kicks of Jo Ann Glover and Lisel Gorell -Getz. For the opportunity to experience Culture Clash chameleon Herbert Siguenza in a sort of serious role (which could lose the singing part. Oh yeah, that’s Brechtian , too). For Linda Libby in amusing prissy/preachy mode; Fran Gercke as a hilarious pontificating priest, and Nick Cagle being a smarmy hoot as the Fox pseudo-newsman.
The design ( Giulio Cesare Perrone ) is clever, the costumes (Valerie Henderson) are terrific, and Sam Woodhouse directs with a loosey -goosey sense of the absurd.
There are laughs to be had, and a few insights, too. If only it were shorter, pared down to the essentials, and not so bloated. Wait! Maybe it’s a commentary on the obesity epidemic in America, too! Every other one of our issues is on display, so why not?
“The Exit Interview” runs through October 21 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre in Horton Plaza.
©2012 PAT LAUNER