New York | 1h 35m | Already closed

Exit Strategy

From 21 critic and 88 member reviews
Members say: Relevant, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Absorbing, Funny

About the show

Primary Stages and Philadelphia Theatre Company present this New York premiere about the chaotic final days of a Chicago public school slated for closure. More…

Playwright Ike Holter explores the future of public education in his new drama. The impending shutdown of a Chicago public school causes tension to mount in its already volatile neighborhood. A small group of teachers launch a last-minute battle to save the school. Over the course of the year, they put their careers, their future, and their safety in the hands of a fast-talking administrator who comes on strong but might actually have no clue what he’s doing.

Front Row Center

"Get a ticket as quickly as possible and go. Don’t miss this one. It hits on every level a theater lover, novice, or even someone who doesn’t really like the theater could want. Drama, got it. Comedy, check. Realism, idealism, struggle, conflict, triumph, and even romance. Ike Holter, the playwright, has written a remarkable work...There are no stereotypes. This is in no small part due to the incredible acting talent of the ensemble, each of whom gives an emotional, real performance." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"Ike Holter’s script is richly complex with just the right number of surprises tucked away in the well-rounded characters’ Pandora’s Box of authentic conflicts. Kip Fagan’s staging is fast-paced, energetic, deeply engaging, and unravels each of the playwright’s episodic emotion-laden salvos with subtle seduction." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"We worry about the results of years of neglect on the lives of students and teachers but we’re given little to consider as alternatives...As energetically Kip electrical current courses through the production, with its sharp blackouts and blasts of raucous music...'Exit Strategy's' not perfect but it’s good enough not to need an exit strategy of your own." Full Review

New York Post

"'Exit Strategy,' a small-scaled, big-hearted and often wickedly funny play, looks at the last-ditch efforts to save a failing Chicago public school from being closed down by the city. Every character rings true, thanks to Ike Holter’s spot-on, affectionate writing and an ensemble cast that’s terrifically in tune...Best of all, there’s no cheap sentimentality or Hollywood-like happy ending. Even so, you leave the theater buoyant. A good show will do that." Full Review

Out Magazine

“Ike Holter’s crackling off-Broadway play...Ryan Spahn is just great as the unwittingly spunky assistant principal, Deirdre Madigan is perfect as a seething teacher, and everyone else gets to effectively strut, snap and make waves, with never a dull moment. See 'Exit Strategy'—it’s a real schooling, with hot things on its mind.” Full Review


"A fierce and (uncomfortably) funny new play…Director Kip Fagan has crafted a highly realistic production that never has us questioning if we're really watching an inner-city public school…Holter occasionally bites off more than he can chew...Holter somewhat undermines the truthfulness of his vision by relying on some tropes of his own. Still, the overall experience is more illuminating than not and a must-see for anyone who cares about the state of public education in America." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"This emotional drama is well acted, well directed and well thought out…The performers are all well cast, with Ms. Madigan dominating the stage with her energetic and layered character. Kip Fagan’s direction is well done with each scene almost seeming like it is its own play...Mr. Holter has a lot to say about the American public school system. He is reaching a subject that needs to be addressed and leaves us with plenty of food for thought." Full Review


"Mr. Holter has ably imbued this tragic situation with humor and dramatic heft…Kip Fagan's steady direction ensures that the events unfold with sufficient tension and speed…The entire cast admirably portrays characters who could easily be sit-comish stereotypes…Despite an unavoidable tendency to come off as an inspirational message play, the smartly staged and well-acted 'Exit Strategy' is well worth a trip to the West Village." Full Review

Village Voice

"Holter's impassioned drama is in many ways about the inspiration people find in each other when the world outside offers none...He explores the community's sticky, conflicted attachment to the school itself...Such emotional force is also where, theatrically, 'Exit Strategy' occasionally falters. Holter works hard to soften this disquieting tale with humor, sometimes to a fault...It's to his credit that...he withholds a happy ending, reminding us that systemic failures are rarely reversible." Full Review

The New York Times

"A vividly acted production…Mr. Holter has a gift for sharp characterization and crisply funny dialogue with jagged edges...Mr. Holter deftly embeds his finger-pointing in the drama itself…'Exit Strategy' takes a sentimental turn. The amorous relationship between Ricky and one of the teachers also injects a formulaic note into the proceedings. But the pungent dialogue, winning performances and Kip Fagan’s streamlined direction help us overlook the small hiccups in the dramaturgy." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"The script leaps from confrontations to rants to shocker revelations, with only the bare minimum of connective tissue...Holter is a talent but, after two hours of such in-your-face dramatics, it's possible to leave the theatre feeling surprisingly dissatisfied…Still, under Kip Fagan's direction a strong cast makes the most of Holter's turbocharged way with words…'Exit Strategy' gives you a rush, and its cascades of words sometimes dazzle, but it falls short of landing the knockout punch." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Holter’s snappy, overlapping dialogue is often very funny...But it is also overly broad (a weakness sometimes exacerbated by Kip Fagan’s direction), and it veers into sentimentality. Although 'Exit Strategy' is about activism, not education, it might be stronger if it engaged more specifically with the issues. Why is this school being closed? Why is it worth saving? The play is committed to teaching, but its lesson plan feels sketchy." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"A predictable travelogue through the final 9 months of Tumbldn's existence, with major stops at the group's internal friction...Holter's writing still occasionally thrills...But aside from Pam and to a lesser degree Ricky, the characters are sparklingly dull, which doesn't aid the actors in making them three-dimensional...If you attend or work at a school, you might well love it with all your heart. But if you don't, an hour and a half of bland pontificating isn't enough to kindle a romance." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"It’s difficult to sympathize with the dire problems these teachers are confronting during the circus-clowns-emerging-from-a-tiny-car routines they frequently deliver. It’s as if they’re participating in an on-steroids 'Welcome Back, Kotter' sitcom retread…A teacher-student plot twist does fly in the face of astonished credulity, and it’s not the only script turn that does...Holter manages intermittently to fight the good fight.” Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"'Exit Strategy' could have done with some old-fashioned discipline. For the characters spend too much of the 90-minute performance shouting at each other. This is at once wearying and implausible...The play’s relentless, vaguely comic vituperation also makes for an unbalanced portrayal of school life...Holter is right to eschew the inane boosterism of 'Dangerous Minds', but his own play lacks nuance too." Full Review

Philadelphia Inquirer

for a previous production "It's a rare play that can entertain you and outrage you simultaneously, but that's just what 'Exit Strategy' does...The entire cast is topnotch, flirting with stereotypes, but passionate and skilled enough to step back from that edge. Holter's characters are sufficiently complex so as to avoid easy consolations as he forces us to keep reevaluating everyone. Kip Fagan directs with electric speed and lots of driving music during scene breaks." Full Review

Philadelphia Magazine

for a previous production "Though Holter’s playwrighting voice is distinctively his, there’s a bit of Aaron Sorkin in the thrust-and-parry word play, with every character achieving implausibly virtuosic feats of articulation...'Exit Strategy' is immensely enjoyable for all those same, Sorkin-esque reasons. There’s a wide range of tone here — from raw desolation to high comedy, and Holter manages it masterfully. He’s especially skillful at orchestrating large conversations. Director Kip Fagan’s production is terrific." Full Review

DC Metro Theater Arts

for a previous production "While there are moments when these teachers slide into broad illustrations of themselves, overall each packs a powerful punch and a dynamic chemistry that contributes to a knockout ensemble cast...This production feels beautifully dangerous, deeply felt in each shocking discovery...The few truly didactic moments are balanced by a searing treatment of how we view failure, and then how we try to 'correct' it...'Exit Strategy' challenges and inspires." Full Review

Broad Street Review

for a previous production "A depressing, brutally honest but also scathingly funny portrait of a floundering inner-city school...The ensemble shines as layers are probed and secrets revealed; no one is as good or bad as he or she seems. Instead, they’re all richly human, friends one day and enemies the next, crushed by despair one moment, then suddenly bolstered by renewed hope...A smart, lean production." Full Review

Broad Street Review

for a previous production "Black, Latino, and low-income families know that they will go to sleep angry, and wake up angry the next damn day, and watching plays like 'Exit Strategy' gives many of these people — including this writer — a good reason to be as angry as hell...He effectively conveys the frustration of massive school closings, which have had a damaging effect on inner-city school systems — and on those who rely on them — since then." Full Review

Broad Street Review

for a previous production "By dramatizing an issue that’s often discussed in the media but rarely humanized on stage, Holter’s play makes a valuable and original contribution. Philadelphia Theatre Company performs its customary job of providing a first-rate production for a new script that’s still a bit rough and frenetic around the edges. Unfortunately, Holter chooses to view the issue of inner-city education almost entirely through the eyes of the faculty...Apparently, the students remain the forgotten actors." Full Review

Funny, Great writing, Relevant, Resonant, Must see

See it if comedy with a deeper meaning

Don't see it if if you only like musicals

Entertaining, Great acting, Great writing, Refreshing, Thought-provoking

See it if Good acting, plot and engaging characters.

Don't see it if You're looking for light hearted comedy or musical. Or looking for truthful situations .

Entertaining, Funny, Great acting, Relevant, Clever

See it if you want to see something funny that still packs a punch; you have ever been exposed to public education in an urban area

Don't see it if you believe the current state of public education is acceptable; you are not a fan of loud noises

Great acting, Funny, Profound, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to see great acting about a topic on public education's downfall in our society.

Don't see it if you are sensitive to raunchy humor or against non-realistic images

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Relevant, Resonant

See it if You are interested in great ensemble acting, great writing and are interested in our school systems.

Don't see it if You're looking for stars.

Funny, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if You like great play-writing, great acting, terrific direction, sets, lighting and costume design, and a care about the future of our schools

Don't see it if there is truly no reason not to see this unless, of course, you're offended by the f-bomb


See it if You want a fun passionate show, with diverse, well drawn characters, action and enthusiasm.

Don't see it if You care more about details, logic, credibility and consistent characters than a fast paced entertaining story.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if You are a fan of Ike Holter's previous work, like examinations of country's crumbling education system, enjoy good performances

Don't see it if You don't like slight exaggerations of real life situations, think that all teachers are perfect, can't stand wishful thinking

Funny, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if you like straight plays. It's not amazing, but it's a good new play about relevant and interesting issues. That's far too rare nowadays.

Don't see it if you're looking for a harsh drama. It was funnier than I expected. It worked well, but the loudness and humor might throw some off.

Great acting, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Uneven

See it if you get inexpensive tickets and you like shows with social issues. When the actors are given great moments, it shines.

Don't see it if you require an insightful script with totally believable transitions.

Cliched, Entertaining, Great acting, Relevant, Ambitious

See it if terrific actors and fun dialogue on a topic both serious and relevant.

Don't see it if cliches annoy you.

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Original, Entertaining

See it if you love straightforward dramas, education inequality is an issue you care about

Don't see it if you're not interested in the issue


See it if you like well acted, thought provocative plays with message. People who worked in schools in the audience were moved by this.

Don't see it if You if you view plays with messages as preachy

Absorbing, Entertaining, Intense, Well acted, Thought-provoking

See it if You like dramas You like to be taken away You like to see great performances

Don't see it if you like musicals you are easily offended by language and subject matter

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Resonant

See it if Well directed, well acted, well written. Just a solid experience at the theater.

Don't see it if you don't like drama!

Ambitious, Entertaining, Clever

See it if You like intense drama with sharp dialogue.

Don't see it if You don't like issue driven theatre.

Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Absorbing, Clever

See it if you like sharply written scenes and characters, very well performed.

Don't see it if you have had enough of schoolhouse or workplace drama.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Original, Relevant

See it if looking for a thought provoking show about the public high school system in under privileged areas. Actors were amazing.

Don't see it if expecting a feel good story with a happy ending.

Funny, Original, Relevant, Resonant

See it if you are a teacher. or know a teacher. this show tells the true struggle for many schools and teachers across the country.

Don't see it if you're offended by language. or offended by two guys kissing (there is a gay couple in the show). And if you are, get over it; it's 2016.

Great acting, Great writing, Relevant, Engaging, Great staging

See it if you want to see a thoughtful, distressing take on the challenges facing everyone in the public education system in contemporary America.

Don't see it if you go to the theater for a fun escape.

Great acting, Great writing, Relevant

See it if a well-acted show about the effects of the closing of a school on faculty and students.Entertaining, some laughs.

Don't see it if The topic doesn't interest you.

Topical relevant disturbing well-acted

See it if Turbulent teachers' break room in a poor Chicago high school. The adults are a gaggle of losers being saved by a charismatic senior.

Don't see it if you're turned off like me by yet another play -- like "The Humans" -- with an extraneous supernatural element that just doesn't work

Great acting, Dated, Cliched, Overrated

See it if You're interested in troubles confronted by public schools

Don't see it if You're expecting something truly original

Relevant, Gritty

See it if like urban dramas, diversity, under-class

Don't see it if offensive language

Quirky, Relevant, Refreshing, Entertaining, Intelligent

See it if you want to see something original

Don't see it if don't like a lot of cursing

Cast & Creatives (14)