Chicago Theatre Review
That Old School Spirit
Exit Strategy – Jackalope Theatre
Did you ever wonder, when you were in high school, what went on behind the faculty lounge door? Did you ever wonder how those monstrous all-knowing authority figures (as they seemed then) and tireless crusaders for the betterment of society (as they seem now) romanced and one upped each other and tried day and night to get you an education despite all the ill spirits of the universe and the American School system working against them? In his new play, Ike Holter introduces us to the weird quirks and heartfelt longings of a noble if fraught crew of educators trying to keep their ship afloat.
Tumbeldon, a run down high school on the South Side of Chicago has been publicly condemned and left its students and staff scrambling, looking for any future they can. Vice Principal Ricky Hubble (Patrick Whalen) , a nervous and ineffective young man, seems the last person to be of any good in such a situation. But when Pam (barbara Figgins) the fiery english teacher and Donnie (Jerry MacKinnon) a crowd-wise and tech-savy student confront him about his chronic lack of backbone, Hubble rises to the occasion, “activating the army” of Tumbeldon’s students and rallying his rag tag and excitable fellow staff to take on the city and save their school.
Holter is a splendid character writer. Each one of this creations is “full’a beans” in their own distinct flavor, brimful with delightful witticisms and so complex and human you could watch a play about any of them. Sometimes it feels as though you are watching many different protagonists duke it out in the same circumstance. That the dialog is actually a pair or even herd of monologs occasionally sparking off one another. He is assisted in this wild menagerie by a collection of first rate character actors: Luce’s frenetic cool-teacher energy blazes from Daniel Martinez; Arnold’s rage, percolating like his precious coffee, simmers in HB Ward, Sadie’s mastership of passive agressivity is gleefully carried out by Lucy Sandy; and Jania’s mental cape of righteousness and metaphorical sweater of self-doubt are twirled and plucked at with equal skill by Paloma Nozicka. Whale’s carefully cultivated nervous ticks, and their resulting crop of archness, are a delight to discover along with Rickey, and MacKinnon, though at times mumbly, is pitch perfect for the smart and smart-alecky Donnie.
Caged in by the artfully dingy faculty lounge (created by John Holt) and maddened by Clair Sangster’s devilish lighting (she can do things you could not believe with fluorescence tubes) Holter’s rat race of would be heroes clash and collide to make a bitingly funny drama. In gestures tiny and epic, the masters of Tumbeldon battle against their own sorrows and face the pain of giving up the good fight, which is almost as bad as the pain of continuing it.
Highly Recommended by Ben Kemper
Broadway Armory Park (2nd Level, South East Corner)
5971 Broadway St, Chicago (just off the red line)
5/16 to 6/15
Thursdays and Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 3:00
TIckets $5-$20 via www.jackalopetheatre.com
Additional information can be found at www.theatreinchicago.com