NO EXIT, TinFish Theatre. “Hell may be other people, but Heaven is also other people,” says the director in the program, seeming to promise a sanguine version of No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre’s vision of hell as a stuffy room in which three thoroughly incompatible people get on each other’s nerves for eternity. But by focusing on “relationships, relationships, relationships,” director-translator Dejan Avramovich neglects the characters’ differences: Garcin is a turncoat Brazilian rebel, Ines a dominating Italian postmistress, and Estelle a vain Parisian gold digger, but in this production they might as well all have grown up on the same block.
Given no personality-based justification for the animus between them, Ines and Garcin, as played by Kaila Michaels and Avramovich, can only recite their speeches with an artificial passion that pushes the emotional intensity so high so early that it has nowhere to go except into physical conflict. Avramovich’s blocking is curiously static, however, for an interpretation using the encounter group as its metaphor, and Trung Nguyen’s Beckett-bare set offers minimal opportunity for stage business.
People torture one another in Sartre’s universe, but this Ines and this Garcin merely annoy. Only Betsy Chapman manages to rise above the production’s general level of ineptitude, making the pampered and self-centered Estelle a kitten-with-claws savvy enough to end up as hell’s CEO in short order. –Mary Shen Barnidge