Bertolt Brecht believed that theater should be dialectical, not escapist, making it ripe for commentary. Taking a page from Brecht, playwright William Missouri Downs’ The Exit Interview strips the form of its fourth wall, defies structure and fosters an environment for razor-sharp sociopolitical observation.
The San Diego Rep is one of five American theaters premiering The Exit Interview, under the auspices of the National New Play Network. Sam Woodhouse directs a cast of six, portraying multiple characters, that includes Rep Artist in Residence and Culture Clash co-founder Herbert Siguenza along with Jo Anne Glover, Linda Libby, Lisel Gorell-Getz and Fran Gercke (plus Rep newcomer Nick Cagle). A free-for-all of vignettes, Exit loosely revolves around the dismissal from a university of Professor Dick Fig (Siguenza) and the on-campus rampage of a masked gunman. But the emphasis is on stinging jabs at Fox News, Jesse Helms, Mitt Romney and institutionalized religion, science and academia. Mid-show commercials for everything from push-up bras to the Rep itself add to the subversive fun, as do Glover and Gorell-Getz as snarky cheerleaders. This Brechtian quest for the truth – and indictment of small talk and small-mindedness – could use some trimming, but it’s a risk that is mostly worth taking.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.