‘Exit, Pursued by a Bear’ balances serious issues with comedyWritten by Chase Will | | email@example.com
Some toxic relationships are ignored and coped with. Others, like that of Nan and Kyle Carter, call for intervention by bears.
“Exit, Pursued by a Bear,” the second feature-length play from Broken Spectacle Productions, offers an uncanny blend of comedy and social examination.
The play both shatters and reinforces the fourth wall — the imaginary “wall” between the actors and audience at the front of a stage — as Nan and her two friends duct tape her abusive husband Kyle to a chair and perform scenes from the couple’s life. Rather than simply killing him, Nan decides he needs to understand his errors before being surrounded by fresh steaks and left for the bears.
“One of the notes I’ve been giving the last few nights is it’s more like ‘Saturday Night Live’ and less like ‘Game of Thrones,’” said director Jonathan Chambers. “While it definitely traffics in some weighty issues, there’s a sitcom quality to it.”
One of the strongest lines in the play is “You shouldn’t need bears to be nice,” spoken by Nan to her husband after he swears he would’ve treated her better if he’d known the deadly repercussions to his actions.
“That is, to me, a wonderful way of thinking of the feminist ethos in the piece. It’s just about being decent and allowing women, who’ve been consistently unprivileged in our culture, to chart their own course,” Chambers said.
The comedic moments aren’t suffocated by this attention to serious issues, said Erin Williams, the actress playing Nan.
“It presents feminism in a way that’s not aggressive, which is what I think people are afraid of when they don’t understand feminism,” she said. “The show lends itself to being funny even though it addresses touchy issues, and I think that in that way it brings everyone together because they’re able to understand but also enjoy the play.”
The title of the play derives from a stage direction in Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale.” The playwright, Lauren Gunderson, calls special attention to her own stage directions as they appear on a projector screen behind the actors.
“There’s a performance element within the play. The stage directions are visible, and it sort of creates an internal performance,” Williams said.
Chambers said Gunderson’s play also challenges “The Winter’s Tale,” particularly for the scene in which Hermione, the leading female, is forced to flee in shame after her husband publicly accuses her of infidelity.
The casual performance area — called The Middle Space — is sandwiched comfortably between Falcon Food Mart and Café Havana and complements Broken Spectacle’s artistic ideals.
“We think it’s a way of helping people understand theater doesn’t necessarily have to be about going to a big building which doesn’t have windows at 8 o’ clock at night in clothes that aren’t very comfortable,” Chambers said.
“The last show we did was in Café Havana on the patio, so a restaurant or café ties in with the fun aspect of it all,” Williams said. “It’s about the entire atmosphere, the people you’re there with, having a meal or enjoying a drink and just experiencing the whole thing.”
Above all else, Broken Spectacle stresses the importance of having fun. This disposition allows it to strategically utilize spaces that weren’t built specifically for theater. This current playing space, for example, only offers one power outlet.
“It really is theater on the cheap,” said Chambers. “We have a budget, and we’re spending money where we need to spend it, but it’s theater that in some respects goes back to the roots, which is actors, audience and the agreement between the two to play make-believe for a little bit.”
Nicole Floyd, a film graduate from Bowling Green State University, is a key player in addressing technical challenges, Williams said.
“She’s created and come up with solutions that none of us could’ve thought of with only theater backgrounds. Having her expertise to layer with what we’re doing with the theater aspect is awesome,” she said.
Williams is also publicity manager for Broken Spectacle Productions, and she appeared in “The Drunken City” while serving as choreographer.
“Really what it comes down to is that the whole company is a collective effort. We all work together on everything, we all have input on everything, and we’re allowed to share our ideas and opinions,” Williams said.
“Exit, Pursued by a Bear” will be performed at The Middle Space, 309C S. Main St., in Bowling Green at 7 p.m. Aug 22, 24 28 and 29 and 10 p.m. Aug 22-23 and 29-30. Advance tickets are available for $12 at www.brokenspectacle.com or $15 at the door. Run time is 80 minutes.