BWW Review: ON THE EXHALE at Slipstream Theatre Initiative Confronts the Impossible Questions About School Shootings

BWW Review: ON THE EXHALE at Slipstream Theatre Initiative Confronts the Impossible Questions About School ShootingsIn the days since seeing playwright Martin Zimmerman's On the Exhale, which is running at Slipstream Theatre Initiative in Ferndale through May 19th, I have been thinking a lot about the 1999 Columbine shooting, the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, and the 2018 Parkland shooting. All of these happened in schools. Of all places, schools are supposed to be a place where children and young adults should feel safe. It's where they spend most of their young lives, where they begin to figure out their place in the world. These three shootings, and countless others throughout the years, have proven the contrary. Nowhere seems safe anymore; not schools, not places of worship, not nightclubs, nowhere.

Slipstream's one-woman show, On the Exhale, centers on an unnamed single mother whose only child was killed in a shooting at his elementary school. This mother goes on a desperate journey to uncover what exactly happened in that school on that fateful September morning. Audiences get to watch as she goes through the grieving process by contemplating important questions through irrational means: Why did this happen? How could this happen? How can we stop this from happening to other families?

Quite frankly, On the Exhale might be one of the most timely plays currently showing in Metro Detroit at the moment. If you need any proof, look no further than this: My father and I saw the show on Sunday, April 28th. Earlier that weekend, there was a shooting at the Chabad of Poway in San Diego. Then, when my dad turned his phone back on after the hour-long play, he got a CNN alert saying there had been not one, but two additional shootings in both Baltimore and rural Tennessee. Only two days after we saw On the Exhale, there was another school shooting, this time at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Two students were killed. It is incredibly disappointing, and sadly, it's no longer surprising, that shootings are occurring more and more often. This is becoming something we're almost expecting. That's horrifying.

I admit that I went into On the Exhale expecting it to be really depressing. I was proven wrong. Tiaja Sabrie's storytelling is so gripping that I completely forgot about my expectations just a few minutes into watching her tell this story. There certainly are moments where you will tear up or even cry, but this play is more contemplative than depressing. On the Exhale isn't afraid to bring up the difficult questions, especially those concerning the shooter's state of mind and the innate human addiction to the type of power that these firearms hold.

Throughout this show, the one thought that kept crossing my mind was just that everyone needs to go to Slipstream and see this production. People in support of gun restrictions need to see this show. People who are attached to their firearms need to see this show. I believe that every person on this planet needs to take a break from mundane everyday life and see On the Exhale at one point in their life. Metro Detroiters have the rare opportunity to join the conversation in their very own neighborhood until May 19th, and there is no doubt in my mind that they should. There is something in this play that will appeal to everyone. You might not think so when the play begins, but you most definitely will be inspired to make a change when Sabrie steps off that stage after an hour of baring her soul and forcing you to feel the anguish of a mother without her child.

Directed by Bailey Boudreau and assistant-directed by Alanna Elling, On the Exhale stars Tiaja Sabrie and runs at Slipstream Theatre Initiative in Ferndale until May 19th. For more information and tickets, visit

Connect with Stagecrafters on Twitter at @slipstreamti, on Instagram at @insidetheslipstream, and on Facebook at

Related Articles View More Detroit Stories   Shows

From This Author Stefani Chudnow

Before you go...

Never Miss a Story
Like Us On Facebook
Follow Us On Twitter
Follow Us On Instagram instagram