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THEATER REVIEW: “The Exit Interview” has world premiere at San Diego Rep

Start with a dollop of existential angst, toss in a little (OK, a lot of) Brechtian theater business, throw in a couple of politically charged cheerleaders, a pompous newscaster, two German doctors and an agnostic university professor who’s just lost his job. Stir briskly and serve with lots of humor.

The result: William Missouri Downs’ rollicking philosophical romp “The Exit Interview,” playing through Oct. 21 in its world premiere at San Diego Repertory Theatre. Sam Woodhouse directs the second of a rolling world premiere that involves theaters in six U.S. cities: Orlando, San Diego, Philadelphia, Riverside, Charlotte and Salt Lake City.

If you’re looking for logic or realism, this isn’t the show for you. But if making fun of the sacred cows of religion, science and the dire fact of getting fired floats your boat, “The Exit Interview” is just the ticket.

Professor Dick Fig (Herbert Siguenza of the Los Angeles-based comedy troupe Culture Clash) has just lost his university teaching job (he’s an expert on Brecht) and is being subjected to an annoying exit interview by HR drone Eunice (Linda Libby), given to platitudes like “When God closes a door, somewhere he opens a skylight.”

But just as they’re getting down the list, there’s a report of a masked gunman on campus. Eunice dives under her desk, continuing the interview from there.

Meanwhile, prettyboy Fox newscaster Walter (Nick Cagle) prepares to interview a mother (Jo Anne Glover) who nearly lost her baby when the carriage got away and started rolling toward the oncoming train. In pre-interview, Walter is trying to prompt her to say God had a hand in that event.

Oh, those cheerleaders? They’re played by Jo Anne Glover and Lisell Gorell-Getz, complete with pompons and high kicks, and they assure us at the top of the show that this show is intended to be (and they ask us to spell it out with them) OFFENSIVE. They return now and then, notably at the top of the second act to announce that theater’s dire financial straits have prompted the movie solution: product placement ads during the show. And who shows up to do them? Why, a Priest, played with great relish by a robed Francis Gercke.

Now and again the playwright (shown on a horse in Wyoming or somewhere) faxes changes to the script, which the actors then must read. It’s a Brechtian touch to remind us (lest we, what, be asleep?) that this is not reality.

Though “The Exit Interview” may be a bit overlong and is definitely scattershot in approach, it is also extremely funny. And if Downs makes you stop and question sacred cows like the nature of the universe, whether there is a god, or the usefulness of cheerleaders in society, he’s done his job.

Six superb actors rush around playing 20 characters. Woodhouse keeps the action moving on Giulio Cesare Perrone’s movable feast of a set, helped by Wen-Ling Liao’s lighting and Dominic Abbenante’s projection designs. Valerie Henderson provides appropriate costumes.

Do things really happen for a reason? You may not find out here, but with luck you’ll be both wildly amused and forced to ponder an answer.

The details

“The Exit Interview” plays through Oct. 21 at San Diego Repertory Theatre, 79 Horton Plaza, downtown.

Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm; select Saturdays at 2 pm and select Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 pm.

For tickets, call 619-544-1000 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.