THEATER REVIEW: ‘NO EXIT’ Damnation may be just being with others

The Herald Times

THEATER REVIEW: ‘NO EXIT’ Damnation may be just being with others

Posted: Monday, October 28, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 12:06 am, Mon Oct 28, 2013.

By Doris Lynch
H-T Reviewer

You know your place of lodging skirts the usual when a valet (Leonardo Diaz) informs you that no toothbrush is necessary, or even a bed.

That’s the eerie situation Garcin (convincingly played by Thomas Reed) found himself in on Friday night at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center in a production of “No Exit” directed by Paul Daily.

The week before All Souls Day and Halloween seems the perfect time for an existentialist journey into hell because that’s where Garcin, a pacifist has landed after being sprayed by 12 bullets for refusing to fight.

Soon Diaz, who presents a stern, no-nonsense valet, returns with Guest No. 2.

Rhianna C. Jones portrays Inez as a woman who adamantly scoffs at congress with men. Jones imparts her character with steely-eyed glares, a mocking tone, quick wit and no interest in “being polite” or ordinary. Jones makes this rather cruel character at times appealing but always interesting.

And what’s a party without at least one awkward threesome?

Soon Estelle arrives, desperate for a looking glass but alas both the room and the ladies’ purses have been stripped of such luxuries. In a world where your eyelids no longer blink four thousand times an hour, a little freshening up might come in handy.

Marissa Whitmer’s high society Parisian Estelle is needy and anxious. At first she allows Inez to be her mirror — a bizarre scene — but before long rebuffs her after Inez keeps urging her to move closer. Although Estelle decides they should make hell a nonspeaking zone, she is the first to break the silence. Although some of her lines imply that she dislikes Inez for her class — Inez is a poor postal clerk — rather than her personality, Whitmer’s acting does not show this.

Sexual tension is an important element in the play. Inez’s many anti-men comments and her overly fawning gazes at Estelle up the ante in this small space. Similarly, Estelle makes some advances toward Garcin, demanding that he kiss and hold her. Both he and Estelle delight in the fact that they will force the domineering and clever Inez to watch their lovemaking.

In fact, one of the joys of this play is the constantly shifting alliances between the three characters. Daily’s blocking and placement of characters creates interesting visual vignettes throughout. Daily has a fine eye for detail. The physical altercations that inevitably develop from being caged with hostile strangers are depicted in a believable manner.

The play included some interesting photographs under Elijah Willis’s direction that were projected onto a screen as each unwilling roommate spoke of his or her past lives. However, this technique was not really effective because no close-ups were involved — perhaps a deliberate choice to suggest the characters’ ethereal states — but one that involved the audience less. Plus, the projected words at the end disappeared before everyone could read them.

Lily Walls did a good job with costumes with 1940s-style dresses, a clutch purse and stockings with seams.

At one point, Garcin hammers repeatedly at the door, screaming for the valet to open it.

After a couple of minutes, the door swings wide but no valet appears behind it. Was this a false hope of freedom or the real shebang? Is hell really that easy to exit? Or does it resemble Garcin’s famous quote from the play: “There’s no need for red hot pokers. Hell is other people.”

In either case, this thought-provoking play provides an evening of stimulating entertainment that is worth a visit to the Rose Firebay.

If you go

WHO: Ivy Tech Student Productions.

WHAT: “No Exit,” by Jean-Paul Sartre, adapted from the French by Paul Bowles.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

WHERE: Rose Firebay, Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center.

TICKETS: $15 adults/$5 students and seniors, at the BCT Box Office at 114 E. Kirkwood Ave., the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center before each performance, or call 323-3020. To purchase tickets online, visit www.bctboxoffice.com.

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