Basement Arts, an awesome organization on campus, produced the play No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre. The performances were on Thursday at 7 PM, on Friday at 7 and 11 PM and Saturday at 7 PM. All the performances were free and held in the Walgreen Drama Center. The performances were pretty well attended, as Basement Arts shows usually are. The Director was AJ Kolpach, Assistant Director, Alison Hacker, Stage Manager and Lighting, Jake Meyers, Set Designer, Daniel Estrella, and Sound Designer and composer, Samuel Johnson.
No Exit is an existential play, originally in French, in which two women, Inez and Estelle, and one man, Garcin, are escorted by a valet into a locked in a room where they remain together for all eternity as their hell. The most famous quote from the play, “Hell is other people” summarizes the entire plot. Plagued by the mistakes made when they were alive, and unable to find peace in the room due to their inherent flaws, the characters Garcin, Inez, and Estelle, reveal their biggest transgressions on Earth and, after an hour and a half, reach an impasse in their interactions with each other, revealing how they will remain stuck in an impossible dynamic with each other for all eternity.
Garcin was played by Aaquil Rowe, the Valet by Mingquan Ma, Inez by Nicole Gellman, and Estelle by Cayley Costello. Costello was by far the best actress. Her character was a social climber who had married an old, rich, man after her parents passed and was in hell for drowning the child she had with a lover. In the room, she is tormented by her need to feel desired by men. Costello did a great job of making her character vulnerable, high society, and really captured how worthless Estelle felt without validation. Aaquil Rowe was very passionate as Garcin, a pacifist who deserted the war, and abused his wife. Garcin was tormented by the idea that anyone would find him a coward, and is unable to physically love Estelle until Inez stops thinking of him as a coward. He was very expressive but flubbed his lines a few times.
Nicole Gellman did a good job of playing the sarcastic, cruel, lesbian, Inez, although the character seemed a little two dimensional, although that is not necessarily Gellman’s fault. Inez enters the room ready to admit to the murder she committed and fully realizes the point of the room and pits Garcin and Estelle against each other, which means, by the end of the play, the character has not really grown. The Valet, Mingquan Ma, was ok, although his diction was a little unclear.
The set on stage was a bit sparse, but still succeeding in creating the scene, with two couches, one chair, a door, a mantle, and a styrofoam bust. There was only one set issue which really brought the audience out of the moment. There is supposed the “unmovable” bronze bust on the mantle but it clearly moved and shifted around the mantle whenever anyone touched it. Original music was also created for this production by Samuel Johnson. Most of the background music was fine but there was one song sung by Inez which seemed out of place and did not have much to do with any of the characters.
Overall, Backstage Arts is a great organization on campus. This particular production was fine, anyone would have had difficulty with such an unusual play. Everyone seemed to have tried their best to make this existential play relatable and down to earth. I look forward to the next Backstage Arts production.