Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit” is one of those plays more read about than seen. It’s an intimate romp that dives into the psyche of three characters who have to deal with spending an eternity in Hell. It’s the kind of content and style that’s perfect for the intimate settings of Post Productions. The classic 1944 existentialist French play, which is being directed by Michael O’Reilly, has resurfaced at The Shadowbox Theatre until Feb. 16.
For this Windsor production, O’Reilly was able to source the English Broadway translation of the play by Paul Bowles, which is more condensed and to the point – and thankfully so. Although highly entertaining, an extra 15 minutes of irrelevant content would have dragged this otherwise enjoyable show to the ground.
The stage was dressed like a drab and outdated hotel decorated in the Godliest rundown red I’ve ever seen. It’s a place no good person would ever want to stay, but that’s the setting where we meet three people destined for an eternity in Hell.
The show begins with bellboy (Alex Monk) escorting in our victims: journalist Vincent Cradeau (Michael Potter), secretary Inez Serrano (Fay Lynn) and young socialite Estelle Delaunay (Elizabeth Dietrich). All three have recently died, were escorted to the hotel room and have never met before. It has the makings of a great social commentary.
The most famous quote from the show is “Hell is Other People” and that rang loud and clear as we got to know the characters. Potter looked incredibly different with his cheesy suit and furry mustache. He gave Vincent a certain sleazy charm, like a dirtbag con man trying to pick up a one-night stand at a local dive bar. It could very well be the standout role for his entire Post Production career so far.
Lynn was strong and controlling, making Inez a pretty dominant character in the show. It was a bit like when we saw her in her first Post show as Carol in Olenna two years ago, although not as scary (I still have nightmares of Carol dancing in my head whenever I see her on the stage). It was a great role for her and complimented the rest of the cast perfectly.
The standout in the show was Dietrich, who was dashing the moment she entered the stage. It’s easy to see why O’Reilly selected her to play Estelle. Although all the characters seemed to have their own stories and struggles, her reasons for going to Hell were pretty deep and hidden under a shell; and Dietrich rocked it. Theatre fans might remember her from Korda’s Lysistrata last year, but with No Exit, she was given a chance to let her character take the lead and she came through like a champ. She’s a good choice for Post Productions to consider in future shows.
As someone who suffers from claustrophobia, I was surprised that characters confined into a single room for all eternity didn’t freak me out a bit more. That’s another round of kudos to O’Reilly for managing to tell an intimate story in an intimate space without crowding or confining it too much.
With a production like No Exit, there’s a good chance it could have flopped. Mix the original English translation with a faithfully dated approach and it would have been a dreadful experience. Instead we were treated to the shorter and more poignant translation with a time frame that we know goes back a few years, but wasn’t specific enough to feel like a bland black and white movie.
No Exit continues this weekend and next (Feb. 8 & 9 and Feb. 14, 15 & 16) for more enthralling performances at The Shadowbox Theatre in Windsor. Tickets are $20 at the door or online in advance at postproductionswindsor.ca.