Lisel Gorell-Getz (left) and Jo Anne Glover in “The Exit Interview”
Photo by Daren Scott
‘The Exit Interview’
By William Missouri Downs
Directed by Sam Woodhouse
San Diego Repertory Theatre
Sept. 29 – Oct. 21, 2012
“The Exit Interview” addresses a whole series of issues: religion, relationships, commercialism, information, obsession and even small talk. But it all comes down to one uber question: Does God exist? The multifaceted comedy circles the issue for nearly two hours. Predictably, there is no definite answer, but it’s a fun ride to nowhere. (See video clip and audience reaction below.)
Dick Fig (Herbert Siguenza) is a pedantic adjunct professor getting laid off. Dick loves Bertolt Brecht and hates small talk. However, before he can pack up his belongings and march off campus, he needs to endure an exit interview with Eunice (Linda Libby), who practices a unique and perky variety of new-age Christianity.
The interview is moving forward in fits and starts—with Dick questioning the survey’s validity—when they hear gun shots. And just like that, the potential exit becomes far more significant than a mere pink slip.
The interview and subsequent siege are broken up by a variety of skits, product placements, debates and news breaks. These amusing vignettes are part of a Brechtian strategy to pull the audience in and out of the play. I know this because the play explained it to me. Even the playwright has a role, showing up on screen to add “new” scenes.
The show’s strength is its cast. Both Siguenza and Libby have great chemistry as the unimpressed professor and the whacky HR specialist. They go round and round about God and other philosophical approaches to life and death.
However, the four players who propel the vignettes are the real treat. Jo Anne Glover, Lisel Gorell-Getz, Francis Gercke and Nick Cagle morph into cheerleaders, a newsman, a priest, scientists, saints and sinners. Each actor shows off great versatility and together they create a hilarious ensemble.
William Missouri Downs’ script is light and playful, with the exception of the Bertolt Brecht references/explanations. Granted, even avid theatergoers may not know Brecht, but the lectures are a little obvious.
The set is fun and functional, as the cast races from scene to scene. Sam Woodhouse’s direction certainly captures the frenetic script and integrates the video segments fluidly. There were some logical hiccups—why is Dick’s girlfriend calling him on Eunice’s phone? But, you know, willing suspension, etc.
If you’re aching for realism, then “The Exit Interview” is probably not what you need. However, if life is a bit too real, take a short vacation. Think of it as deep thoughts enveloped in a dark, comic coating.