No Exit

April 29, 2017

in Plays

Play (1944)
by Jean-Paul Sartre
Adapted from the French by Paul Bowles

Directed by Katharine Jordan
Assistant Director: Joe Juknievich

Exiled Theatre
Auspicious Phoenix: The Space Studio
438 Somerville Avenue, Somerville, MA
April 14-30, 2017

With Matt Arnold (Vincent Cradeau), Joe Juknievich (Bellboy), Rebecca Schneebaum (Inez Serrano), Olivia Caputo (Estelle Delaunay)

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Rebecca Schneebaum, Matt Arnold, Olivia Caputo in 'No Exit'

Rebecca Schneebaum
Matt Arnold
Olivia Caputo
in “No Exit”
Photo: Courtesy of Exiled Theatre

A delightfully intimate production of the existential classic.

Vincent (Matt Arnold), Inez (Rebecca Schneebaum) and Estelle (Olivia Caputo) have all died and find themselves sequestered in a locked room in hell in which they must endure one another.

It would be worth the price of admission just to hear the classic line hell is – just other people, the famous earmark from this classic play by playwright, novelist and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. The significance of the utterance, and of the play itself in many respects, is the recognition that the consequences of one’s actions among people endure and that the appropriate “punishments” are actually having to continue to deal with others, in some way or another, endlessly; one cannot escape the trials of relationship, even in eternity.

The play is a distinct response to Christian theology and eschatology which tend to paint a distinctively more penal picture of hell. It is Sartre’s wryly humorous stab in the back of traditional Christian notions that depict retribution in a form totally other than what we undergo in life. In fact, Sartre’s view is proto-Buddhistic, suggesting that what we reap in the future is a product of what we have sown and that we do not face a cosmically distilled totaling of the bill of our successes and failures as much as a destiny committed to a replay of our past attempts.

The challenges that Inez, Estelle and Vincent face with one another as the minutes, and months, wear on, are significant and eventuate in a realization that there is no escape from the demands of life, and that death, if it makes any sense at all, echoes with the reverberations of life.

This intimate production brings the Sartrean drama literally face to face with oneself and the results are charming and compelling. The three young actors who embody the trio of mutually fated characters do a wonderful job of bringing their dilemma to life. And, as an ensemble, they function remarkably well.

Rebecca Schneebaum as Inez is inflammatory and demanding, irate and confrontational, her insistent repudiations of Vincent forthright.

As Vincent, Matt Arnold gives a good account of a likeable-enough businessman whose performance during the war is less than heroic, striving for dignity and facing his own desperate cowadrice.

Olivia Caputo, as Estelle, provides a continually poised and alert presence, her subtle facial expressions and bodily gestures evocative of the tragic character which she embodies and from whom she tries continually to escape. Her performance is at once sensuous and tragic, adeptly conveying the Sartrean chokehold in which life is captured by a regretful conscience.

The staging is simple but effective, the three main characters posted on three adjacent couches.

Joe Juknievich plays the subsidiary role of Bellboy with Cheshire-cat splendor until his role disappears behind a locked door.

This existentially unsettling but oddly charming and intimate production in a warehouse basement space in Somerville in an alley adjacent to the Market Basket is demonstratively exhibitive of Exiled Theatre’s earnest and promising determination to establish itself in the vibrant Boston small theatre scene; this forthright demonstration of its promises encourages one to energetically look towards its future offerings.

– BADMan

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