Exit If You Dare

A trip to New York City isn’t the same without checking out the latest Lauren Rayner Productions (LRP) project that’s taking over NYC’s performing arts scene. We caught up with artist and producer Lauren Rayner when she was visiting Berlin earlier this year, so finally it was time to catch a glimpse of her in her element and home-base of NYC. Taking on the Jean-Paul Sartre play “No Exit” – with a small, but highly dynamic cast – was no easy feat.  This existentialist classic, orginally written in French, has seen many a stage and been on plenty of screens. But LRP successfully brought the play to NYC – not forgetting to incorporate the original language with four lively and magnetic French artists taking on the stage and even drawing a predominently French-speaking audience. This rendition was compelling and showcased some great international talents based in NYC. 

No Exit - SartreIsis plays Estelle in “No Exit” at the 45th Street Theatre. Photo: Martin Loper

Sartre No ExitRoxane Revon as Ines in “No Exit” at 45th Street Theatre. Photo: Martin Loper

All 5 performances of “No Exit” were sold out, so I was quite lucky to snag a ticket! Not being as cultured as I would like (meaning: I don’t know French), I was a bit hesitant about my ability to follow the plot of the play, but the supertitles screening above the stage eased my worries and saved me from relying solely on hand movements, facial expressions, and tone and volume of voice. As an avid Sartre reader, the rendition of this play did not disappoint and I felt the intricacies of the complex underlying themes of absurdity and pervasiveness of “nothingness” in existence quite strongly. The play centers around three characters who are essentially stuck in the afterlife, or “hell” as they describe, together. Through various ups and downs (though mostly downs), they recount their sins or wrong-doings in life that could have led them to end up in such a place. The resulting human anguish and despair in a realm of nothingness (in this case, the confinements of hell) was captured well by the actors and accentuated by the empty picture frames and lighting effects. 

The realization that the three characters will be stuck together in this increasingly claustrophobic room for eternity and will only torture each other for the rest of their lives really drives home the famous quote of Sartre “Hell is other people!” The intimacy of the black box setting integrated the audience into the play and made for an entertaining night that certainly beat gallery hopping through the cold wintry streets of NYC!