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Exit, Pursued by a Bear

a World Premiere
CATEGORY :
by Lauren Gunderson

COMPANY : Synchronicity Performance Group [WEBSITE]
VENUE : 7 Stages [WEBSITE]
ID# 3995

SHOWING : March 04, 2011 - March 27, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Exit, Pursued by a Bear is a play based on one violent stage direction (Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale). Likewise, our heroine will sacrifice it all to get out in this hilariously brutal modern revenge comedy. Part "I Love Lucy", part Jacobean revenge tragedy, part beautiful ballet, part nature special, and part feminist power ballad set in the North Georgia mountains. Exit is not over till the bears are in pursuit.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Rachel May
Sweatheart Taylor Dooley
Nan Veronika Duerr
Simon Clifton Guterman
Kyle Nick Tecosky
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REVIEWS

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Making it Classical
by Dedalus
Saturday, April 16, 2011
4.5
What do you get when you combine a frazzled wife at the end of her rope, a husband duct-taped to a chair, a stripper who wants to be an actress, a gay best friend who shows support by showing up in a UGA cheerleader costume, a ton of frozen venison, and Shakespeare’s most memorable stage direction? You get Lauren Gunderson’s wild and wooly new “revenge comedy,” “Exit, Pursued by a Bear,” now being given its world premiere production by Synchronicity Performance Group.

It’s a fairly basic plan. Tired of being smacked around by her jerk of husband, Nan Carter and her new stripper friend Sweetheart have decided to “go classical” in a quest for revenge. They’ve duct-taped husband Kyle to a chair. Now, they’ll “put on a play,” showing him all the scenes that led up to this, scenes full of drunkenness and slaps and verbal abuse and dead deer (Nan works at veterinarian’s office and can’t stand to see any critters suffering). Nan’s best friend from childhood, Simon, shows up to lend support and to vent a lot of years of watching Nan suffer in silence. When all is said and done, the plan is to surround Kyle with all the frozen venison in the house, open the back door, and escape into the sunset, leaving Kyle to the mercy of the inevitable hungry bear.

Along the way, there are a boatload of laughs stemming from the utter cluelessness of all the characters and the absurdity of the situation. Along the way, there are also quiet moments of coming to terms with guilt, with anger, and with that strange co-dependency that often defines abusive relationships. There are even some moments that make Kyle seem less a monster and more the end result of the questionable parenting skills from those who raised him. (He’s described at one point as discovering that black-and-blue women are a source of laughter just as he was discovering puberty.) He’s even allowed to re-enact some of the “good” scenes from the marriage, which are sadly sweet, considering how things worked out.

Yes, it may seem a bit unusual clothing a serious subject like domestic abuse in the cloak of a “redneck” comedy, but the whole things works. In addition to the nicely delineated characters and laugh-out-loud dialogue, a lot of the credit for the success of this show rests on the shoulders of Veronika Duerr, an actress who could make a reading of the phone book funny. She gives Nan a sad and awkward demeanor, making us like her from the start. She’s damaged and fragile, but lets a core of iron gradually come out and save the day. And, she has bad case of hero-worship for Jimmy Carter (“I wish he was my real father”) that plays out as faux-profound quotes to comment on any situation. It also makes for a nice joke at the end. I love everything she does in this play!

As Sweetheart, newcomer Taylor M. Dooley is a true find. Sexy and smart, she wears her Georgia twang like a pair of “F%^$k-me” pumps, using it to define her as well as free her. When she drawls that she met Nan while on her way to “audition for the Dahlonega Community Theatre’s production of ‘Hamlet,’” you can’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of the idea at the same time you’re thinking “that actually might be interesting to see.”

And, as Simon, Clifton Gutterman makes a welcome return to Atlanta, giving us a gay character so far over-the-top, he leaves anyone else in the camp dust. More than camp, though, he shows us a true friend willing to go as far as he must to help Nan, and shows he’s not afraid to stand up to Kyle (at least as long Kyle is safely tied).

As Kyle, Nicholas Tecosky spends most of the play bound and gagged (he even takes his curtain call from the chair), but, in his few short scenes, he shows us a dim guy who lets his drinking and his temper go too far, who has a calmer side, and who can feel some regret at how he has treated Nan.

In the final analysis, though, this is Ms. Duerr’s play, and she elevates it from a simple “revenge comedy” to a heartfelt anthem to finding your freedom and for building a “family’ based on love and friendship rather than on fear. It helps that the whole “revenge” plot is a tad half-baked and absurd (an ironic point is eventually made about the eating habits of Georgia black bears that makes a nice ironic afterthought ), but it does give Nan the opportunity to finally unleash all the pent-up anger and disappointment that has been growing for years. And that is the true heart and soul of the piece.

For the record, “Exit, pursued by a bear” is the stage direction Shakespeare used in “A Winter’s Tale” to signal the doom of one of his characters. While it is used more metaphorically here (sorta – there may or may not be a real bear involved), it is more of way for playwright Gunderson to signal the freedom of her character. And it’s a freedom sweeter than honey (or revenge)!

-- Brad Rudy (BK Rudy@aol.com)



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