In “No Exit,” Hell is other people

Artists and writers have portrayed Hell in various ways: everything from fire and brimstone to endless nothingness has been offered as possibilities for eternal torment. The playwright Jean-Paul Sartre contributed his existentialist take on Hell with “No Exit,” a play recently performed by Players’ Theatre Group.

In Sartre’s vision, Hell is not made of fiery pits or absolute nothingness but rather a different kind of torture—two women and one man are locked up together for the rest of eternity. It might not seem like the never-ending suffering many think of when Hell comes in mind, but as this play shows, people are hell.

The production opens with Joseph Garcin (Oliver Ruhl), Inez Serrano (Paige Klopfenstein) and Estelle Rigault (Bessie Bulman) being led to their room by the Valet (J.P. Peralta) where they will spend the rest of their existence. Right from the start, a dynamic between the characters develops that clearly hints to the leading message of the play. The actors deliver quip after quip at each other while also reflecting on what they left behind on Earth, including what led them to Hell in the first place.

The start of the play was quite abrupt, and the production overall had such a fast pace that the actors sometimes had difficulty keeping up. There were many times when the actors fumbled over lines or didn’t quite pace their reactions and conversations logically.

All the characters had interesting and twisted storylines, but out of all the characters, Inez stood out the most. Inez is different from typical female characters written in the 1940s, and Klopfenstein did an excellent job of embodying the character, bringing all the necessary emotion, voice inflection and facial expressions to the stage.

There were moments when the plot seemed rather slow or unnecessary, but it was worth getting to the end. It was a pleasant surprise that ended the production on the right note.

Production: “No Exit” by Jean-Paul Sartre
Group: The Players’ Theatre Group
Location: Eldred Theater
Date: Jan. 22 & Jan. 23 at 8 p.m.
Rating: ★★★★☆