No Exit

The drama department and the film production class of Jacksonville University combined their talents last weekend, to produce Jean-Paul Sartre’s one act play No Exit. When I learned about this event, I was hesitant to attend because I know the student film class would be taping it and most of my previous experience with movie makers and plays involved a lot of lights and stopping and starting for various scenes. I was pleased when the cameras used the stage lighting and I was hardly aware that any filming was going on.
About half of the seating in the Studio Theatre was occupied and I considered that a good crowd for a morality play written by an existentialist French philosopher with the plot concerning three strangers in hell being together forever!
Director/Producer Caroline Conte did an excellent job directing and casting the four character show.
The Valet, who sends each character into the stark room with black walls and only three foot by three foot square boxes covered with a satin as furniture. As played by Lukas Syr, this is by far the smallest part and he only appears on a video monitor in the first ten minutes of the play. Mr. Syr played Father, in the JU’s Ragtime that closed last weekend.
The first hell dweller to arrive is Garcin, whose sins were cowardice and insensitivity. He cheated on his wife and even brought home his affairs, and inadvertently induced his wife to commit suicide after this death. He lusts after Estelle one of two women sharing his fate in hell. He thinks if Estelle treats him like a man he will receive some absolution and redeem himself. This role was well played by Sam Sid, who played Harry Houdini in the recent JU production of Ragtime.
Inez is the second to enter. The most intelligent of the three, she is a calculating and cruel lesbian whose sins include turning a woman against her husband by having an affair with her and then later murdering another man. She is the most honest about her belonging in hell and acknowledging her faults. Freshman Julia Fallon is remarkably good in this complex role. Ms. Fallon was in rehearsal for this play, while performing the leading lady in Ragtime, which was an equally demanding role.
Sophomore theatre major, Meredith Brown, was Estelle whose sin was drowning her illegitimate child, the result of an affair outside her marriage to a man she did not love and she was only was very fond of his money and place in society. She could not live with her self and was motivated to commit suicide. Ms. Brown was superb as the flirtatious controller of men.
This was Jean-Paul Sartre’s conception of hell, written in a few weeks during World War II. He purposely made it a one-act play so that Parisian theatre goers could see it and get home before the Nazi imposed curfew was in effect. There have been much written about what hell is like (if indeed it does exist).
I am thinking seriously thinking of mending my ways, just in case since the thought of an unending eternity with two strangers frightens me. Suppose it were two other theatre critics!! That would really be hell!
Thanks Jacksonville University for a very stimulating evening of theatre and the price was certainly right, FREE. I will not soon forget the most famous quotation from No Exit, “Hell is for other people”.