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Theater Review:

Pitch-perfect plot and characters

October 27, 2009|By James Petrillo

Good news, aging populace! I’ve found legitimate evidence that getting old doesn’t have to be such a drag. The three silver-haired actors in “Exit Strategy” are living proof that anything is possible, regardless of what year is printed on your driver’s license.

The Falcon Theatre takes a detour from its typically more raucous productions to offer up the West Coast premiere of “Exit Strategy,” a consistently entertaining combination of drama and comedy written by Bill Semans and Roy M. Close.

The subtle emotional wallop it packs comes as a surprise because the plot itself is a bit of a derivative mishmash of other popular stories.

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Think of a three-person version of the movie “Cocoon” in a more urban setting where the magic for recapturing youth is discovered simply by plotting a leftover heist from “Ocean’s Eleven.”

James (James Sikking) and Mae (Debra Mooney) are two elderly friends on fixed incomes. They waste most of their day sitting watching reruns. The shoddy rooming house they’ve lived in for years is planning to kick the residents out at the end of the month.

They’re resigned to sit idly by and wait for the inevitable until the convenient arrival of Alex (John Moskoff).

He’s a strange but endearing man who immediately shakes James and Mae’s existence to their very core. Alex moves into the last vacant bedroom and rocks their world the old-fashioned way, by asking questions and being a good listener.

Breaking down their adventure would be easy, but it might spoil the fun. The coolest part of “Exit Strategy” is how the wildly engrossing plot is balanced so perfectly with wonderful character development and effortless underplaying by each of the engaging stars.

Moskoff has some rather stiff monologues about the meaning of life, but that’s mostly the fault of stilted dialogue from the writers. His salty performance in the smallest, most predictable role serves mainly to enhance the softer charms of the two leads.

Mooney crackles as the grumpy Mae, her hopes and dreams always simmering just beneath the gruff exterior.

Her journey from hopeless to heroic truly inspires.

But if there’s one reason not to miss “Exit Strategy,” it’s of course the incomparable presence of James Sikking.

You might remember him as Lt. Howard Hunter from “Hill Street Blues,” but now I’ll always remember him for this production.

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