By Lauren Gunderson
Directed by Cassy Sanders
Produced by Theatre Seven of Chicago
At the Greenhouse Theatre, Chicago
Unfunny revenge comedy wears thin quickly and falls flat
Theatre Seven of Chicago produces new and original works that “speaks directly to the diverse Chicago community.” Their latest work, Exit, Pursued by a Bear by Lauren Gunderson is a revenge comedy with a preposterous plot, shallow characters, and a tiresome, unfunny comic theme.
Nan Carter (Tracey Kaplan) decides it’s time to leave her abusive husband Kyle (Ryan Hallahan) and make a run for it. But instead of simply leaving, she, with the help of Sweetheart (Elizabeth Hope Williams) – a want-to-be actress stripper and Simon Beaufort (Ryan Lanning) – a swishy gay ex-cheerleader, ties up Kyle with duck tape and surrounds him with venison meat to entice the local wild bears into the house for a feast that will hopefully include Kyle.
But, before she puts the plan in place, she decides to re-enact episodes from their marriage for an audience of one (Kyle) but, of course, we have to suffer through these excruciating scenes that contained silly word play and hillbilly antics that included spot-lighted monologues mostly by Nam that featured quoting Jimmy Carter speeches. This show simply wasn’t funny, Few people, including the company members at opening of this 75 minute show laughed very much as the show drowned on. I believe that revenge comedies need a plausible and relentless premise, an empathetic protagonist, and a most evil villain. None of those was elements were developed enough to garner humor. Being “hicks’ from rural Georgia speaking in Southern dialects was not enough to sustain comedy. The dialogue wasn’t funny; the over-the-top performances by Simon and Sweetheart quickly became annoying; and the amazingly passive depiction of Kyle failed ignite laughs.
Since we never understand why Nan just doesn’t simply leave nor do we see how actually abusive Kyle is toward her – the structure is thin making the play need gimmicks and silliness to harvest enough humor to sustain 75 minutes. The players and the situation were so broad that the itplayed like an adult cartoon devoid of humor. Theatre Seven of Chicago usually mounts terrific plays so they can be excused for this one.
At the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Avbe., Chicago, IL, call 773-404-7336, tickets $22 in advance, $30 at the door, $15 industry/seniors, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:30 pm, running time is 75 minutes without intermission.