Review: The KTS's No Exit

If nothing else, No Exit is pretty. Unfortunately, two-and-a-half hours of pretty can get pretty wearing.

If nothing else, No Exit is pretty.
Unfortunately, two-and-a-half hours of pretty can get pretty wearing.
The King’s Theatrical Society’s production of Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit is a textbook display of stage picture and technical design. Directors Jeremy Powell and Julie Matheson have crafted a gorgeous piece, thorough in its interaction with Sartre’s existentialism. Each scene is beautifully conceived and displayed, highlighted by a nuanced and layered lighting design (also Powell and Matheson).
Individually, actors Harry Sawchuk (as Garcin), Emily Jones (as Inez), and Natascia Lypny (as Estelle) hit their marks without fail, filling the openness left by the brilliant, minimal set. Like the production’s design, the physical presentation of the characters is undeniably beautiful. Kale O’Neill (as the wonderfully mechanistic Valet) sets the demonic machine in motion that establishes this space.
But the interactions between the characters are often as sparse as the set they inhabit. At times it’s difficult to separate the intentionally limited feeling of Sartre’s hell from the inflexible character of the production. The time that spans the space between lighting changes is wooden and monotone. The desire to create a series of artful moments led this production of No Exit away from the humanness that is present even (or especially) in the depths of hell and towards a forced, flip-book production of pretty images that flit before the eyes of the audience.
The lighting design is so central to this production that the audience becomes attuned to the on-stage events only during a lighting change. The Pavlovian audience, lying in wait for that change in lights, coasts along with the cast between snapshots. As a result, the audience then has significant trouble digesting Emily Jones’ textured and wise portrayal of Inez. Both Garcin and Estelle consistently react much more ardently to Inez than to each other, which makes the love between them an awkward, artificial affair. Jones’ Inez lifts both Sawchuk and Lypny to emotional highs that enrich certain moments throughout the action. Nevertheless, the show maintains a fragmented feel that does detriment to the Herculean technical efforts, which transform the Pit into a very real, very pretty hell.
No Exit runs Nov. 3-6, 2010. See for details.

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