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All sacred cows imaginable are headed for the dinner table in “The Exit Interview,” a new comedy by University of Wyoming playwright-in-residence William Missouri Downs that turns the classic human relations send-off on its head in hilariously epic fashion.
Directed by Lee Hodgson, “The Exit Interview” runs Oct. 7-11 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 12 at 2 p.m. on the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts Main Stage. Tickets cost $14 for the public, $11 for senior citizens and $7 for students. For tickets, visit the Performing Arts or Wyoming Union box offices, call (307) 766-6666 or go online at www.uwyo.edu/finearts.
Called a “bonkers theatrical carnival that is to conventional plays what Burning Man is to a weenie roast” (San Diego Union Tribune), “The Exit Interview” was inspired by a sensational report of a baby carriage falling in front of a commuter train, but the baby survived.
“The news anchors kept talking about how the baby’s survival was a miracle or how God had a purpose for it, but I kept thinking about babies who are not so lucky,” says Downs. “How do we understand the world or create meaning when the ‘miracle’ doesn’t happen, when tragedy or misfortune or just ridiculousness strike? Who has responsibility for that? I knew I had to write a comedy that looked at those kinds of questions.”
The result is Downs’ delirious comic exploration of religion, love, politics and no less than the meaning of life through an excruciating exit interview endured by Dick Fig, a hapless Bertolt Brecht scholar who is being given the shove by his university. Everyone around Dick seems to have pat answers to life’s big questions, especially Eunice, the devoutly religious HR pawn who conducts the interview.
Downs’ fast-moving comedy ricochets between existential interludes, politically radicalized cheerleaders, a pompous newsman and soccer moms re-inventing the scientific method, before reaching its surprising conclusion. Just what is the answer to that baby question anyway?
Downs prefers that audience members reflect on that for themselves.
“’The Exit Interview’ is a didactic comedy; it states its philosophies boldly, just as Bertolt Brecht did,” Downs says. “It does this because the theatre needs to fight against received wisdom and those who think that art no longer needs moral content.”
It seems that many are hungry for a theatre that engages as much as it entertains. “The Exit Interview” won a Rolling Premiere by the National New Play Network, an alliance of professional theatres across the nation that champion the development and production of new plays. Downs’ play competed with thousands of other scripts, was selected as a finalist alongside works by six other outstanding playwrights (including an Obie award winner), and eventually won.
The play has been produced by about a dozen eminent theatres in the last year, including Orlando Shakespeare, San Diego Rep, InterAct in Philadelphia, Actors Theatre of Charlotte, Riverside in Iowa City and the Salt Lake City Acting Company.
“A rip-roaring send-up of Americanized Brechtian angst that had the audience howling.” -- Stage Magazine.
“Thanks to William Missouri Downs' clever script, you don't have to be a theater scholar to appreciate ‘The Exit Interview’ however; you just have to know people.” -- Orlando Sentinel.