“Exit, Pursued by a Bear” — Play Review


“Honey, you’ve been recast”.  In “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” award winning playwright Lauren Gunderson brings to life an abuser’s worst nightmare, where the tables are turned and the victim holds the power.  In this raucous comedy dealing with a serious topic, Nan (Sara Renee Morris), a victim of domestic violence, finds a perfect opportunity to exact feminist revenge from Kyle (Max Sorg).  Most survivors of domestic abuse could identify with the plot or may even have had secret desire for revenge.

Nan says, “he is awful and I wish he were dead”.  She is getting help from her gay friend Simon (Jacob Marker) who is acting as her emotional and actual cheerleader and a stripper named Sweetheart (Laura Espino) who seems to harbor a hope for landing an acting job and finds this role very exciting.  As Nan reminisces about her life with Kyle, she reenacts scenes from their marriage, with Sweetheart playing the role of Kyle, so Kyle and the audience can see how horrible he had been to her.  This happens under Sweetheart’s direction and some clarification regarding the plot appears on the screen above the stage, from time to time.

Nan is pregnant and she sees the opportunity to not only rid herself of Kyle but work towards repopulating the world with “gentlemanly, feminist boys”.  Kyle makes feeble attempts at protest against Nan’s version of events.  In Kyle’s version, they are best friends and he occasionally loses his temper because that is what men sometimes do and he promises to fix things.  It seems Nan is getting sucked into the rhetoric and then she is pulled back by her friends who insist that she stand her ground and stick to the plan.  The plan is to leave Kyle tied to a chair, way out in a country cabin, smothered in honey, and surrounded by slabs of meat, to be pursued and consumed by a bear!

Gunderson’s “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” beautifully depicts the absurdity of violence in the context of a relationship built on assumption of deepest level of care and concern.  Possibility of redemption of the abuser and hopes of freedom by the victim, makes the relationship appear as absurd to an outsider, as the couple living it may want to give it meaningfulness and purpose.  This reality of an abusive relationship is delivered through humor and nonstop fun, where Sweetheart and Simon play a crucial role.   Hilariously funny and unabashedly overenthusiastic Laura Espino is the life of the party, the engine that drives the plan forward, when it seems to be staggering.  Director Steve Boyle has done a fabulous job in maintaining just the right tone and keeping it humorous while keeping it real, with regard to the seriousness of the subject.  

“Exit, Pursued by A Bear” will be running at City Lights Theater in San Jose, till June 14, 2015.  Don’t miss this play.  Tickets can be purchased at www.cltc.org .

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