You’d be hard pressed to find a more oddly structured theater event than “Exit 10,” a morose collage by occasional Robert Altman collaborator Danny Darst. It’s designed by Altman grandson Jade and Jade’s wife Patricia and directed by Robert’s son Michael; even though the helmer’s brand is all over the project, they say he never read the text before his 2006 passing. That’s too bad, as the man behind “Thieves Like Us” and “A Prairie Home Companion” could’ve taught them something about dramatizing the plight of the underclass and keeping a story going.
Things kick off with a full half-hour of Darst as Mike, authentic as 20 miles of bad road, meandering around a truck-stop garage with muttered tales of drifter life and some cool guitar ballads thrown in. We learn more than we ever thought possible about the art of tire repair and only toward the end start to weary of not seeing his eyes in Carol Doehring’s unvaryingly dim light, unsure as to which stories are meant to be wryly funny and which downbeat.
A flashback to Mike’s youth (Paul Teodo), including cameos of his co-workers (Bryan Bellomo, Ed Dyer) and lady friends (Mercedes Manning, Jean St. James), involves even more meandering monologues and a bewildering lack of tension. Even more puzzling are the extensive details about truck tires as compared with a dearth of character need and character confrontation.
The garage interior is completely believable, and the late-inning scene shift to a greasy spoon across the highway is correct right down to the last salt shaker. But the play never arrives down that lonesome road.