An abusive husband is wheeled onstage tied to a La-Z-Boy recliner, bound with duct tape from his hunting boots all the way up to his stubbled face.
His wife tells him she’s going to kill him. She’s going to pack the chair with venison (which he killed), drizzle him with honey for good measure, leave the door open of their Georgia mountain cabin and let the bears eat him.
“I think we got off on the wrong foot here,” he later says to the audience during the 75-minute, no-intermission play.
That’s how “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” at the Theatre at Arts Garage opens, and yes, it’s a comedy. With a script that’s a shade bright where it should risk dark, the show wants to be more bizarre than it actually is. At times, it strains toward a long version of a “Saturday Night Live” skit or a short version of the movie “9 to 5.”
The story is centered on Nan (Niki Fridh), who takes the opportunity of her hubby Kyle’s (David Nail) undivided-if-unwilling attention to reenact the scenes leading up to his immobility. She gets help for this play-within-a-play documenting his maltreatment from her gal pal Sweetheart (Lindsey Forgey’), a stripper and wannabe actress. Moral support comes from her gay BFF Simon (David Hemphill), a fit and fabulous cheerleader with pompoms set on punish.
With a title taken from a re-dunk-u-lous stage direction in Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale,” this revenge comedy is fairly funny, if mostly in fits. Even though the characters are two-dimensional, Louis Tyrrell directs with deftness and flourish, like a symphony conductor working with a string quartet. He clearly has a goal in mind: redemption
And “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” does get there. Putting aside Nan’s obsession with Jimmy Carter and Sweetheart’s getting most of the best lines aside (“if I was trashier, I’d spit”), you just can’t help but wish that the trip was as wild and crazy as the play’s title.
“Exit, Pursued by a Bear” runs through Dec. 30 at the Theatre at Arts Garage, 180 N.E. First St., in Delray Beach. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 7 p.m. Sundays. 2 p.m. matinee Saturday. Tickets cost $30 to $40 and can be ordered at 561-450-6357 and ArtsGarage.org.