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‘Exit Strategy’ at True Colors Theatre Company

2017 March 13

“Exit Strategy” at True Colors Theatre takes a serious look at the social injustice of school closings in 2014 in lower-income neighborhoods in inner-city Chicago. There’s plenty of substance and humor and a talented cast that makes this show worthwhile.

The play opens with the assistant principal Ricky (Matthew Busch) trying to break the impending bad news to Pam (Tess Malis Kincaid), a 23-year-veteran teacher, that at the end of the year the school will close due to “low test scores and some other stuff.” School staff will have to look for new jobs and students will have no nearby schools to attend.

Determined to keep the school, teachers (white, black and Latino) organize neighborhood walkthroughs and protests. An insubordinate student, Donny (Lau’rie Roach), hacks into the school website where he creates a fund-raising site to support the cause to save the school. Arnold (William S. Murphey), a middle-aged teacher who has fought this battle at other schools before and lost, says it’s likely this closing can’t be stopped.

Fifty other schools in low-income neighborhoods have been closed down in the past year. The dilapidated schools are bulldozed down, as high-end real estate like Trader Joe’s remake the neighborhood. This high school is so underfunded that the ceiling tiles are missing or stained and teachers have to buy rat poisoning because they can’t afford an exterminator.

“Exit Strategy” was first produced in 2014, in Chicago, where the playwright was then living, a year after Chicago Public Schools had issued a list of 129 schools to close. The mayor at the time ended up closing 54 public schools, mainly in low-income black and Latino neighborhoods.

Written by Ike Holder (named the “Chicagoan of the Year in theater 2014”) and winner of the Windham–Campbell Literature Prize for drama in 2017, directed by John Dillon, “Exit Strategy” runs through March 19 at True Colors Theatre Company.

Tracey N. Bonner . . . . . . . . Sadie
Ralph Del Rosario  . . . . . . . . Luce
Diany Rodriguez  . . . . . . . . Jania

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