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Theatre Review: Theater with a View breathes life with ON THE EXHALE

I love discovering new and exciting theater venues.  There are so many in this area and not enough audience takes advantage of them. Theater with a View is my newest revelation. Set in an idyllic section of Pottstown it provides an incredibly friendly staff, a nice facility and on this night an amazing regional debut of a thought provoking play, ON THE EXHALE.

Nina Covalesky in ON THE EXHALE. Photo by Bryan Buttler.

ON THE EXHALE by Martin Zimmerman is an incredibly timely and powerful examination of shootings in schools.  It is a one woman tour de force that in a little over an hour takes the audience member on a necessary if uncomfortable journey through one woman’s personal experience with gun violence.  Nina Covalesky embraces the narrator’s body and soul and in the duration of the play she challenges us to feel, think and examine nearly every dimension of the social quagmire that surrounds gun violence in the U.S today.

Director, Elaina DiMonaco sculpts her actress into an important conversation with the audience.  Covalesky is sharing and confiding in us the entire time.  Her pacing and emotional variation are stunning.  She is aided by Mr. Zimmerman’s play that never stays on one thing too long, yet thoroughly examines the facts and emotions of a myriad of situations surrounding the issue.

The woman begins the night with a story about her experience as a college professor when a disgruntled student threatens her, and she deeply feels the fear and pressure of the absurdity of his reasoning.  The play then turns to her choice to be a single mother who lives for her second grader, Michael.  She discusses her fear of being shot and leaving her son abandoned.

The play takes a more tragic turn when randomly her son is killed in a seemingly pointless school shooting involving an automatic weapon.  She guides us through the levels of personal grief, but detours into the world of the actual instrument of death, the assault rifle.  She goes to the gun shop where she becomes enamored of the weapon and buys it.  Our professor takes it home and interacts with it leading to an interesting ending.

The play is not about the plot.  It is about one woman’s feelings being jolted and manipulated by her personal involvement with the greater problem.  The playwright asks the right questions and Ms. Covalesky imbues her character with an incredible nuance that appropriately fits a woman of her background and education.

There is a book written by a local author, Tom McAllister titled “HOW TO BE SAFE: a novel.” It covers similar territory and would be a great follow up to seeing this wonderful play.  It is a topic that we must continue to question, or it will fade in importance over time.  As the survivors of Parkland tell us it cannot go away.

ON THE EXHALE plays until July 28th and it will be an evening well spent.  Between the riveting plays, the beautiful view provided, and the warmth of the staff you will want to return to Theater with a View for what looks like a great season. For tickets and information go to theaterwithaview.com or call 484-925-1547.

Review by Dennis Bloh

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