Review: No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre (Art and Lies Productions)

Sartre’s No Exit by Arts and Lies Productions delves into existentialism at Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto

Last night in the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace I saw No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre. With little plot development and a main focus on character development, there are three characters whom we get to know very well. This is my kind of play – I personally love this structure and loved the show last night. No Exit is one of Sartre’s more well-known writings, and although I am not familiar with the original – this rendition was enjoyable and got the message across boldly.

This play follows the story of three people in purgatory anxious to see the hell that awaits them. They learn about each others’ histories as well as personalities. This is the troublesome dynamic of three, as there is always two versus one. This also enhances a constant power struggle that these characters deal with. As the audience is taken on this journey we can’t help but think about the characters of people around us. Initiating self-reflection is something I look for and cherish in theatre.

The acting is great – the characters have these specific quirks and it is evident the actors realize this and convey them exceptionally. The lighting and stage direction keep the eyes entertained, which is especially important on this small stage. Both these technical aspects are also used well to enhance the power dynamic.

The pace of the play is a little difficult to adjust to. There is a lot that occurs right away then the pace slows down significantly. I find it gets a little repetitive and back and forth, which is especially prevalent due to the simplicity of this play. Then the play picks right up again and we see new development. My show partner agreed with me on the slow pace of the show, which we later established was likely amplified by the small theatre.

It is a dialogue-heavy play, where the constant banter allows the audience to truly understand the characters. However there is very little music, and when it does come in, it is such a great relief to be carried away by it. There is a constant growing tension that one might not have noticed but as the music comes in it alleviates the pent-up energy. This intensity in the atmosphere is fantastic.

Overall, the existentialist aspect of No Exit is portrayed exceptionally and the play gets me thinking about personalities and power struggles in a different way. The beauty about existentialism is that everyone has a different perspective and reaction to the same content and I certainly think this play allows for the audience to take as much as they want.


No Exit plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Ave.) until February 4, 2012
-Shows run January 24 to February 4 at 7.30pm
-Ticket prices range from $25-$35
-Tickets are available online or through the box office by calling 416.504.7529

Photo credit to Rosanna Saracino