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'Exit, Pursued by a Bear' at Carpenter Square

“Exit, Pursued by a Bear” by Lauren Gunderson is currently playing at Carpenter Square Theatre. The title is taken from one of Shakespeare’s most interesting stage directions in “The Winter’s Tale,” a show which coincidentally recently closed at Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park.

Joe Dibello directs “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” with careful consideration. The subject matter is not treated lightly but it is treated humorously. “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” has very dark humor, and in that darkness, the serious problem of domestic abuse is often obscured. The heroine, Nan, solicits her two best friends to assist her in teaching and showing her husband, Kyle, what he has done before she leaves him. She ties him tied to a chair drenched in various forms of bear bait while they enact a bizarre sort of ‘this is your life’ as he looks on. Nan’s new friend Sweetheart and Nan’s oldest friend Simon alternate their re-enactments of events and verbal torture with emotional support for Nan.

Connor Branson as Kyle is able to project his voice through duct tape and his attitude without freedom of movement while gagged and bound to his recliner and entreating Nan to have mercy. Mattie Alexander as Nan, the wife lost in her rebellion, seems at times to be lost in her decisions. This is typical of battered wives, and Alexander seems to understand the role overall, although she is somewhat weak. Holly McNatt as Sweetheart, an actress/stripper, is hysterical in this part. Her timing is excellent. Mark Fairchild as Simon Beaufort is equally funny as the cross dressing flame in the cheerleader getup. Fairchild and McNatt have great chemistry in their roles and they clearly have a fine time playing their parts.

“Exit, Pursued by a Bear” has so much humor that one almost loses sight of the serious problem domestic violence can be in this country. Men often get a pass from society, and that is one reason women stay—no one quite believes the abusive nature of the marriage. Gunderson uses humor to tell the story, and DiBello’s direction follows suit. Overall the production is very good and makes the point in most cases. The script has several points that seem to be the ending, and then the play continues. The various endings from Gunderson’s imagination should be punctuated a little better by DiBello in the direction. As is, the audience became confused and a little irritated.

Although “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” is a presented with characters who must ‘bare’ their souls, this production sometimes fails to invoke connections with the audience. Humor must reveal rather than disguise the cruelty of life. The show comes very close to letting the humor reveal nothing. With more balanced direction and performance from principals, “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” would make us think as well as laugh as the author intends.

“Exit, Pursued by a Bear” plays through July 18 at Carpenter Square Theatre at 800 W. Main in downtown Oklahoma City. For tickets and information call 405-232-6500 or visit online at

Elizabeth Hurd

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