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Suli Holum is riveting in On the Exhale

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

On the Exhale
Theatre Exile
Review by Rebecca Rendell


Suli Holum
Photo by Paola Nogueras

Martin Zimmerman’s On the Exhale takes an unflinching look at the unexpected ways one woman’s life is impacted by a horrific act of gun violence. At Theatre Exile, Suli Holum is riveting as the professor and single mother whose only son is killed when a shooter takes aim at a second grade classroom. Unable to find out exactly what happened in the moments surrounding her son’s death, the woman—we never learn her name—becomes fixated on the assault rifle used to perpetrate the murder. A unique perspective and some unexpected plot twists keep the audience on the edge of their seats throughout this powerful production.

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I came in with high expectations based Holum’s recent turn as Ashlee in Dance Nation at the Wilma Theater. Holum delivers. Smart and slightly frazzled on the surface but drowning in desperation underneath, Holum gives her character an unnerving gravity. A complex and emotionally fraught 70-minute monologue could easily become confounding or boring, but Matt Pfeiffer’s fluid direction immediately engages the audience and holds their attention.

Alyssandra Docherty’s excellent lighting does a lot of the heavy lifting. There is almost no set, which suits the intimate venue.

Disturbing and sobering, On the Exhale is a serious play with dark themes. It will leave your mind racing and your heart broken.

On the Exhale runs through December 22, 2019, at Theatre Exile, 1340 S. 13th Street, Philadelphia PA. For tickets and information, visit theatreexile.org or call 215-218-4022.

Cast:
Suli Holum: Woman
Crew:
Matt Pfeiffer: Director
Alyssandra Docherty: Lighting and Set Designer
Keyonna Butler: Costume Designer
Samantha Dugan: Stage Manager