April 12, 2016

A struggling Chicago high school faces imminent extinction in “Exit Strategy,” a pointed if sentimental drama by Ike Holter that opened at the Cherry Lane Theater on Tuesday in a vividly acted production from Primary Stages. Among the play’s strongest, funniest scenes is its first, a testy meeting between the boyish, tidily dressed assistant principal, Ricky (Ryan Spahn, exuding earnest spunkiness), and a veteran English teacher, Pam (Deirdre Madigan), who glares across the desk that separates them as if she’d like to make a meal of her much younger boss. It’s summer, and Ricky is gently trying to break the news to the school’s staff that, um, as he puts it, “The negotiations didn’t go as smoothly as we expected.” When he continues to dance nervously around the real news, Pam, oozing the weariness of a teacher who has logged 23 years in an inner-city public school, barks at him to get to the point. Like a chastened child, he soon does: The city’s school board has decided that the school will be closed at the end of the year. “Low test scores, unfavorable conditions,” he mumbles. “Lots of — lots of, lots of, lots of stuff.”