By Elizabeth Ann Foster
What are the rules? Then – what is an exception to them? In the case of Dave Harris’ world premier play Exception to The Rule, the rules are those of an urban American High School. The exception is a student that can navigate, abide, rise above, and make her own destiny.
Stuck in High School detention, the regular lineup – Tommy (Malik Childs) Abdul (Mister Fitzgerald), Dayrin (Toney Goins), Mikayla (Amandla Jahava), and Dasani (Claudia Logan) are all steeped in the routine. Fearing more detentions, they arrive on time, do not leave the room, and fall into place as they wait for the teacher to arrive while listening to public address announcements by the principal (Daniel Baker). A newcomer to detention Erika (MaYaa Boateng), has had little interaction with the detention crowd and lacks the familiarity and spirit of detention shared by her peers.
As teenagers do, they ask probing questions trying to figure out what each did to land in the detention room 111 – on a Friday before the long Martin Luther King weekend. The usual transgressions are cited like fighting and dress code violations. Erika, a college-bound first-time detainee, eventually confesses her crime with dramatic regret to the delight of her fellow “inmates.”
The American flag by the intercom fixes our place. The use of lockdown devices, including gates, strobes, and the wire over the intercom, was especially eerie as the nation grapples with how to deal with school children murdered in school – 39% by knives, 61% by firearms, as reported in the US Secret Service 2019 report.
Set in its own dreamscape à la Twilight Zone, the play is pure humor and heartfelt. These engaging young people exude charm, aspirations and dreams but seem trapped as detentionees with few prospects. Erika’s college ambitions rub off a bit on Abdul and Tommy muses about the perfect TV family once portrayed on The Cosby Show, just before he mentions that his father is in prison again.
Dasani, named after a water bottle, is called Poland springs and Aquafina by her wisecracking peers. Common high school motifs run through the work bringing everybody back to yesteryear and that awkward age. Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, you get it. The scene where Dasani imitates a church service is incredibly funny as each character dances and pantomimes.
Who is ultimately in charge here? Where is the person that is supposed to be supervising this crew? Why is the last voice we hear over the intercom that of a woman? Each audience member can answer these, and other questions that Exception to The Rule asks.
Mysterious public address announcements build to the moment security systems lock everyone in. “Have a safe weekend everyone!”
Among the song list prerecorded and played were Mobb’n by Kash Doll, Plan B by Megan Thee Stallion, Hatin by Rico Nasty and Kenny Beats, Boogie by Brockhampton, Scatter Brain – Conway The Machine Feat by Ludacris & JID, Dreamville Coming Down by Dreamville and Ari Lennox, Persuasive by Doechii, You Only Live Twice by Drake Feat, Lil Wayne, and Rick Ross and Family Ties (mix) by Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar. Bring earplugs as the music is loud and the room is small. If you sit in the front row, you are asked to wear N-95 masks provided on the seat. Seating is first-come, first-served.
Exception to The Rule by Dave Harris
Director Miranda Haymon; Set Design Reid Thompson and Kamil James; Costume Design Sarita Fellows; Lighting Design Cha See; Sound Design Lee Kinney.
Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre, Black Box Theatre
111 W 46th Street NY NY
All tickets for Exception to the Rule are $30 General Admission tickets and are available by calling 212.719.1300, online at roundabouttheatre.org, in person at any Roundabout box office: American Airlines Theatre Box office (227 West 42nd Street); The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre (111 W 46th Street) and Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street).
For groups of 10 or more please call 212-719-9393 x 365 or email email@example.com.
Exception to the Rule plays Tuesday through Sunday evenings at 7:00 PM with Saturday matinees at 1:30 PM and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. Runs through June 28, 2022.
Runtime one hour 20 minutes with no intermission.