Saturday, March 15, 2014

No Exit @ The Pearl Theater

“Hell is other people” is a line from Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit which sums up the entire plot and feeling of the play itself.
The Pearl Theatre Company presents a translation of Sartre’s No Exit written by Paul Bowles, which is directed by Linda Ames Key, and starring Jolly Abraham (Inez), Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris (Estelle), Bradford Cover (Cradeau) and Pete McElligott (Valet). The show looks at the idea of Hell being just a room that you are trapped in…with other damned souls picked specifically to push your buttons.
It’s apparent right off the bat that all of the actors are highly talented and fully invested in their characters. All of the characters are distinctly unique from each other, from the way they stand and move to the cadences and rhythms of each of their speeches. Abraham (Inez) is very grounded and moves like a cat stalking her prey while always having fire in her voice. Luqmaan-Harris (Estelle) flits around the stage with an affected upper class quality to her voice. Cover (Cradeau) is loose and lugubrious with his body and sarcastic and unaffected in his speech. McElligott (Valet) makes good use of his limited stage time with a distant, no nonsense, clipped quality to his voice and physicality.  
One of the main problems of the play comes from the writing. Sartre was a philosopher as well as a playwright, so many of the characters lines end up being long lugubrious philosophical monologues, or long monologues examining life back on earth. While this is certainly part of style of the play, it made the show feel a lot longer than its relatively short length of 95 minutes. Things would considerably speed up and became more enjoyable whenever the characters were allowed to play with each other. But it depends on what we go to the theatre for. If it’s for entertainment, No Exit is a bit heavy. But if it is to examine our lives and see them reflected in a thought-provoking way, then No Exit is the right show to go see.
Part of the heaviness of the show comes from the very quick shifts of atmospheres and emotions. One minute, the characters will be flirting with each other, then they would be screaming and angry and then suddenly they were laughing once more. The shifts were a bit jarring, but that could have been the point the director Linda Ames Key, wanted to make. The intimate space of the theatre made the audience really feel each emotion, and felt very claustrophobic. But that’s what the characters are feeling as well.
The additional crew of No Exit includes: Technical Director and Production Manager Gary Levinson, Production Stage Manager April Ann Kline, Interim Artistic Director and Dramaturg Kate Farrington, Sound Designer Jane Shaw, Scenic Designer Harry Feiner, Lighting Designer Ann G. Wrightson, Costume Designer Devon Painter and Fight Director Rod Kinter.
If you want to see a show that really makes you think, No Exit is certainly not something you should miss. It will only be at The Pearl Theatre Company until March 30th.

Review By: Chrissy Cody

Photos By: Al Foote III

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