NO EXIT BY JEAN-PAUL SARTRE. ADAPTED FROM THE FRENCH BY PAUL BOWLES. TOM PATERSON THEATRE
A man is brought to a windowless room, and the door locked behind him. Shortly, instead of the torturer he has anticipated, he is joined by two women. But as the three occupants describe the various paths that have brought them here, the true nature of their predicament becomes horribly clear.
Opens June 24. june 13 to august 29
Director / JIM WARREN
Designer / SUE LE PAGE
Estelle Delauney / CLAIRE JULLIEN
Bellboy / ANDREW MASSINGHAM
Vincent Cradeau / STEPEHN OUIMETTE
Inez Serrano / CHICK REID
TOO DAMN MILD IN SARTRE'S HELL
June 26 (Toronto Star) -The production of No Exit which opened last night makes you realize that Jean-Paul Sartre's 1944 existential drama was really the starting point for that old party favorite — The Truth Game.
It's an intriguing revelation that we ought to thank director Jim Warren for, but it remains one of the few things to be grateful for in this ultimately unsatisfying evening.
The play is set in hell, which designer Sue LePage astutely presents as that mixture of pedestrian and pretentious found in French provincial hotels of a certain age. A bellboy (played with sphinx-like detachment by Andrew Massingham) ushers in three people. At first glance, we pinpoint them as a braggart, a coquette and a bitch. Each gets on the other's nerves in many little ways.
Then Sartre tells us the three have darker levels and we're really dealing with a coward, a nymphomaniac and a lesbian. In a pattern as old as time and as new as the action in your local pub, each of the three turns to the least suitable partner and the tension builds.
We finally pull off another layer of veils to discover the crimes for which each of the trio has been condemned to hell, as they swirl in a vortex of misappropriated desire that leads them to a melodramatic climax, and the gradual realization they will do this over and over again for all eternity.
"Hell," as one of them observes, "is other people."
The play still holds its power, and it's amazing how contemporary Sartre's vision remains 60 years after its creation. Unfortunately this cast only deliverspart of that vision. Each of the three leading players possesses the trappings of what is needed, but lacks the elemental force underneath.
Stephen Ouimette is fine at giving us the curdling self-hatred of Cradeau, the coward, but we don't believe his animal passions, the bullheaded masculinity that makes this person tick.
Claire Jullien is decorative as the wanton Estelle, and she sways her hips with appropriate abandon, but lust never really seems to show up on her radar. She's got the moves, but not the grooves.
Chick Reid is perhaps most successful as the sardonically Sapphic Inez, with her dry wit and tightly wound demeanor. But she, too, lacks the edge that would take us into the truly demonic.
In the end this seems to be a play about a suburban trio who answered the wrong set of personal ads, rather than Sartre's vision of a group of people trapped in an inferno of their own making.
And it's a very bad idea to play "Make Someone Happy" during the curtain call.
It assumes that all of us in the audience must be suffering from irony deficiency. If the cake is good enough, then who needs icing?