nytheatre.com review by Michael Criscuolo
August 15, 2008
Daren Taylor's ambitious new drama, Exodus, has a lot on its mind. Set in a dystopian future where most of the population serves the privileged upper class, the play's themes of political and economic exploitation couldn't be timelier. But a muddled script and uneven production impair this story's ability to achieve its potential.
Exodus opens in a fictional America where 80% of its citizens have been shoehorned into 20% of its land. It seems that gentrification has taken hold so aggressively that the rich have gained an economic and territorial foothold over most of the country. The action takes place in a small Kansas town where hunger and slave labor are commonplace. Fed up with the government's shabby treatment of them, a small group of friends band together for dissent, resistance, and change.
Despite an intriguing premise, Taylor bites off more than he can chew. His writing is too sloppy and general for Exodus to be edifying. For starters, the play's religious symbolism—i.e., in the town is called Paradise, the prison is referred to as Repentance, and the cops are known as shepherds—is a little obvious. The overly earnest characters veer closer to stereotype than archetype, and their relationships to each other are never clearly defined. Other details fall through the cracks as well, such as a prominent female character who goes through the entire play inexplicably disguised as a man. Huh?
Unfortunately, director Jessica McVea isn't able to help matters much. She dials the show's level of urgency up to 10 right at the start, leaving Exodus nowhere to go. The actors are often blocked too close to each other, thereby erasing any chance of building tension. And any momentum the show gains is ground to a halt every few minutes with an unnecessarily slow set change.
Exodus boasts a young and energetic cast, but most of the actors possess only limited range and depth. By and large, this is not a good showcase for them. Only Ciera Payton, as a wrongly imprisoned woman, and Adam Swiderski, as the resident wise old sage, leave a lasting and positive impression.
Despite its high and well-intentioned aspirations, Exodus misses the mark and offers little enlightenment. Hopefully, these young upstart theatre artists will have better luck the next time out.