nytheatre.com review by Case Aiken
December 9, 2010
As a recovering Catholic school boy, discussions about morality and the afterlife weigh heavily on my thought process. I guess the nuns did their work. No Exit, a piece by French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre and produced for the stage here by the Invisible City Theater Company at the Roy Arias Theatre, is a fantastic representation of the subtle nuances that make the idea of hell what it is. Hell in this case isn’t a matter of bodily torture, as it’s made abundantly clear at the piece’s opening; but rather the deeper torture that comes from one’s own insecurities and guilt. Three deceased souls are placed within a room, with only each other and their respective shame to punish them, and left to slowly crumble as they see their worlds pass them by.
This rendition of the piece, with direction admirably handled by David Epstein, takes a minimalist approach, relying on the strength of the actors to hold the audience’s attention. The three members of the principal cast (Alex Cape, Cecelia Frontero, and Jenna Doolittle) each do a wonderful job in their roles as the damned, alternating in turns between sympathetic victims of circumstances and vile antagonists. While there is no particular standout between the three of them, it is only because they all perform equally well in a very complex piece. Minor flair in the set design by Ira Haskell—such as the irregularities between what at first appear to be identical stools—helps bring the banal yet uncomfortable world to life, while ultimately serving the text and the performances.
The Invisible City Theater Company presents a solid example of theatre done well. Focusing on the strength of the source material, rather than needlessly attempting to provide unnecessary flourish, goes a long way towards proving themselves above creative ego and highlighting their collaborative skills. They’ve presented here a very well-rounded approach to theatre, though perhaps somewhat safe at times, and should be commended for their efforts and the well-honed work that came from them.