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Review: 'Exit, Pursued by a Bear' has teeth, but lacks bite

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Though there are problems with both the play and the production, Theatre on Fire’s “Exit, Pursued by a Bear" is still worth seeing.

The 80-minute tale of a browbeaten woman, Nan, taking theatrically inspired revenge on her abusive, lowlife husband Kyle is rife with funny moments and one-liners written sharply enough that they seem designed to induce belly laughter. Unfortunately, the delivery of those lines isn’t always quite as razor sharp.

As if blunderingly pursued by the title beast, the actors are too often stepping all over each other's lines. Director Darren Evans would do well to slow the pace, allowing the audience to hear one line (and likely laugh) before the next one begins. As is, the production feels rushed, contrived and barely conversational.

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Timing, however, isn’t the only issue with “Exit, Pursued by a Bear.” Playwright Lauren Gunderson smartly uses humor to tackle the topic of domestic violence. When it’s time to get serious, however, there just isn't enough depth to her characters for the audience to truly feel their pain. The last 10 minutes of the play crawl on, followed by a pointless, poorly executed karaoke scene that should have been left on the proverbial cutting room floor.

It's not all bad, however. Tim Hoover is convincingly creepy in his disturbing portrayal of Kyle, who spends most of the show bound and gagged with duct tape, watching a series of vignettes performed by his wife’s best gal pals.

Samantha Evans garners the most empathy in her portrayal of Sweetheart, a local stripper with big Hollywood dreams. Cameron Gosselin, meanwhile, hits some of the funniest marks as flamboyant gay best friend Simon, but — aside from over-the-top camp — his role is never really fleshed out. As the Jimmy Carter-worshipping Nan, who should stand strong as the show's protagonist taking matters into her own hands, Mary-Liz Murray is dull and rather lifeless.

There are high points in the show, moments that hit nerves both comical and uncomfortable. But, without compassion, the story never fulfills its dark, insightful potential.

"Exit, Pursued by a Bear"
Through Oct. 26
Charlestown Working Theater
442 Bunker Hill St., Charlestown
$20,866-811-4111
theatreonfire.org

 
 
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