8/6/2013 4:07 PM
“No Exit” is a dark comedy about three individuals’ experiences of hell. Although each character expected explicit torture upon his or her arrival, instead they are escorted by a valet to a windowless, mirror-less, Second-Empire drawing room. Gradually, they discover that the agony they are enduring with each other, their memories, and their awareness that life is continuing without them, is far worse than any physical pain they anticipated.
This very existentialist play is thrilling to read and probably almost impossible to cast appropriately and direct well. With essential elements of each character constantly revealed from their entrances to the bitter end, the script allows the audience to determine for themselves what they think of Garcin, Estelle, and Inez. They are not necessarily entirely good or totally bad. At the same time, in the process of making each other’s lives utterly miserable, their interactions often reveal Sartre's sardonic sense of humor.
4/17/2013 4:45 PM
While I am typically not a fan of plays that derive their titles from the language within it (what a cop out! If you have the stamina to write a play, you can certainly be less lazy than that), I can think of no more perfect title for Sartre’s play than “No Exit.” For the characters within the play, there is literally no escape—from one another, from the hell they find themselves in, from the memories they recount from their respective lives. This sense of inescapability traps the audience within this intensely compact play, which provides no real resolution to the dilemma the characters find themselves in. My one criticism of the title is that it gets lost in translation from its original French roots; the most precise translation of the phrase “Huis Clos” is “behind closed doors.” While I find this title to be endlessly more clichéd than “No Exit,” I nonetheless maintain the plays’ translators should have strayed less from Sartre’s original intent.