Director Mark Spina has done it again! In “Exit Strategy,” Mark takes on education in a thrilling way. Playwright Ike Holter looks inside a crumbling Chicago high school destined for closing and gives us a view of the faculty and students that will live in your brain and may change the way many look at our educational system.
Ricky (Nicholas Wilder) is a Chicago high school vice-principal, who is having a series of uncomfortable conversations. He must sit down with each of his colleagues to discuss the closing and ultimate demolition of the school, a decision made outside the school by people who don’t know anything about people. They just know about numbers. From Ricky’s initial discussion with the thrummingly white-hot angry Pam (Liz Zazzi), we get a taste of the passion for the thirst for knowledge that English teacher Pam has, and her own ultimate solution for the issue at hand. Right out of the gate, Holter sets the hook, and we begin to engage.
Gary Glor is Arnold, a teacher who is also the Union Rep, who is trying to rally the troops in his own way. Every group has an Eeyore and sometimes the most dangerous people are those who feel they know the right thing to do. He is the immovable, immutable object that his colleagues work to move. Luce (Thomas Vorsteg) is an irresistible force, yet Arnold manages to blunt Luce’s magnificent light. Arnold doesn’t, however, dampen Luce’s spirit. Luce bounces in after summer vacation luminously ready to teach and to learn and Gary shows that he is not entirely immune to Luce’s lively energy.
Sadie (Rokia Shearin) knows what it’s all about and she’s ready to lay it all out. She knows the difficult choices that continually need to be made and how delicate the balance is among conflicting forces of family, students, and colleagues, while still struggling for time for oneself. Jania (Melody Vargas) is sparks and fire and each of these women has her own way of guarding the most tender part of herself–her heart. When Donnie (BK Dawson), a brilliant teenage provocateur, hijacks the school website, it is a call to action in ways as different as each of the faculty involved and with some surprising complications.
It is always easiest to see a situation from our own perspective. The genius of Spina’s direction of Holter’s play is in showing the depth of each character in so brief a play–this is one act with continuous action. Each actor shows us a living breathing person, who is very like people you know, especially when you have many friends who are educators. I attended the opening with a retired teacher, a retired administrator, and a teacher just beginning his career. They all had very interesting perspectives from their areas of experience and expertise and the play, in the hands of this cast, is physically moving, as well as emotionally moving. The characters give their all, and learn a great deal about one another in the process. Take those you love to see this show, and get your tickets early.
See “Exit Strategy” with friends who are educators and prepare for deep discussions! Visit http://www.thetheaterproject.org/
for your tickets and more information. Plan to arrive early and enjoy downtown Maplewood, New Jersey. Make a full evening of “Exit Strategy” at the Burgdorff Arts Center, through April 23.