March 20, 2014
No Exit is a time-honored classic of theatre. Written by Jean-Paul Sartre in Nazi occupied France during World War Two, the play is surprisingly short (due to the curfew) and, hence, cuts right to the heart of the matter very quickly. As we watch Cradeau, Inez, and Estelle wrestle with their big existential questions and discoveries, we are inexorably drawn to consider our own. At least, that’s the hope. And that’s the challenge with most productions of No Exit – engage the audience while presenting very daunting and pointed social and metaphysical ideas. In the worst productions, the show becomes a snooze-fest and the ninety minute play feels three hours long. In the best productions, we feel as trapped, as desperate, as lost as the three characters locked in their eternal struggle.
The Pearl’s current production lies somewhere between these two polar opposites – not dreadfully boring but not riveting either. Instead, it hums along very efficiently with moments of startling force. The stage design by Harry Feiner strikes a nice balance between the classic look (three chaise-lounges of different colors) and a modern feel (the statue is right out of a trendy Chelsea hotel). Behind the playing area are piles of junk – possibly the detritus of a lifetime or possibly the sign that we are looking at a cosmic junkyard. While all four actors turn in solid performances, Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris gives an innovatively fresh turn as Estelle. Director Linda Ames Key keeps the action moving and also finds some nice moments of stillness for the cast. On the whole, this production is a strong showing of a tough play.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Kelly Johnston