Exception to the Rule

Cast of Exception. L-R Malik Childs, Toney Goins, Amandla Jahava, Claudia Logan, Mister Fitzgerald, MaYaa Boateng. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.
Cast of Exception. L-R Malik Childs, Toney Goins, Amandla Jahava, Claudia Logan, Mister Fitzgerald, MaYaa Boateng. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.
Rating
4.6/5

What are the rules? Then – what is an exception to the rule? In the case of Dave Harris’ world premiere play Exception to The Rule, the rules are those of an urban American High School. The exception is a student who can navigate, abide, rise above, and make her own destiny.

Room 111 resembles a military installation with cinder block walls, wire gates, and even the American Flag. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.

Room 111 resembles a military installation with cinder block walls, wire gates, and even the American Flag. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.

Breaking the Rules

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.

Chair stickers: Like in high school, name stickers adorn the back of chairs. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.

Chair stickers: Like in high school, name stickers adorn the back of chairs. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.

Detention Room 111

As teenagers do, they ask probing questions, trying to figure out what each did to land in 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.

Trapped

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 musing about the perfect TV family once portrayed on The Cosby Show, just before he mentions that his father is again imprisoned.

Claudia Logan, MaYaa Boaten, and Toney Goins in a scent from Exception to the Ruler. Photo Joan Marcus

Claudia Logan, MaYaa Boaten, and Toney Goins in a scent from Exception to the Ruler. Photo Joan Marcus

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’s in Charge?

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.

The Company in a scene from Exception to the Rule. Photo by Joan Marcus

The Company in a scene from Exception to the Rule. Photo by Joan Marcus

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 BrainConway 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.

Malik Childs and Amandla Jahava in a scene from Exception to the Rule. Photo Joan Marcus

Malik Childs and Amandla Jahava in a scene from Exception to the Rule. Photo Joan Marcus

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.

Roundabout Theatre

Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre
Black Box Theatre
111 W 46th Street NY NY

Tickets

All tickets for Exception to the Rule are $30 General Admission tickets and are available by calling 212.719.1300, online at roundabouttheatre.org, or 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 groupsales@roundabouttheatre.org.

Runtime one hour 20 minutes with no intermission.

Readers may also enjoy our other reviews of The Fever at Minetta Lane Theater, Approval Junkie, The Life at New York City Center,  Science at the Theater For The New City, and Trevor: the Musical.

Exception to the Rule

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