No Exit – Electric Company (presented by Nightwood)

By Michelle Barker

No-Exit-2009

What do you get when you combine Sartre, video cameras, and a bellboy? The most confusing good time that you may ever have in a theatre.

Electric Company’s production of No Exit at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre was a show that I have been looking forward to seeing since I heard that it would be mounted as part of Nightwood Theatre‘s 4×4 Festival, an event featuring women directors (also featuring Serious Money and That Face). While I left the theatre incredibly confused, I was not disappointed.

I went to the show with a dear friend Kelan, who is currently studying acting and is always eager to see a good show. I love the Buddies in Bad Times space, and this show transformed the stage into a mess of papers, bells, ladders, and a bed. On the walls were three giant screens with the inside of a room projected onto them. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

For those of you that are not familiar with Sartre or this work, it’s an existential piece about three ‘absent’ people realizing what hell really means. Underlying themes suggest that we’re all the same, bound together by human nature and our inability to change in the face of the beliefs, opinions, and expectations of the people around us. In other words, this show is a mind-bending exploration of self. If you’re not a fan of considering yourself and your own nature, you might want to avoid it.

As an admittedly self-involved person who loves to think about herself, this show was an incredible experience for me. Not only was the subject matter enthralling, the performances were brilliantly executed and every technical aspect to the show was innovative and captivating. One of the show’s selling points is that the entire live performance takes place in a closed-off room that is being projected onto screens for the audience to see, while the bellboy, the only person on the stage, simply waits and listens, commenting now and again on the audience’s role. Kelan, one of the smartest gals I know, even said that the projection screens were able to enhance the meaning of Sartre for her.

As mentioned, Kelan and I left the theatre and stumbled home in confusion at what we had just seen. While we agreed that we loved the performances by Lucia Frangione and Laara Sadiq, we had to talk our way through the plot before we could begin to wrap our minds around Sartre’s ideas. I have to say, that’s exactly the response that I hope to have to every show.

If you want a revolutionary cinema-meets-theatre experience, No Exit is the show for you. If you want great performances by great actors, No Exit is for you. If you want complex ideas that will force you to leave the theatre thinking, No Exit is for you. If you want a feel-good story that you can leave at the door… you should probably avoid the 4×4 festival altogether.

See No Exit! Tell people about it! Your brain will thank you.

Details:

No Exit plays at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander Street) until November 21st
– Show times are Tuesday – Saturday at 8 p.m. with 2:00 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays
Tickets range from $20 to $45
– The Box Office can be reached at 416-955-0101
– Artsworker Discount Tickets are available for $20

Photo of Andy Thompson and Jonathon Young by Michael Julian Berz.