There’s a pointed irony surrounding the return of the American Repertory Theatre’s No Exit: if Hell is other people, as Garcin so famously declares in Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1945 play, then why are all the actors so thrilled to be working together again? Karen MacDonald, Remo Airaldi, and Will LeBow are all longstanding members of the ART company, and prominent local actress Paula Plum fit right in when the production, done in collaboration with Imago Theatre of Portland, Oregon, debuted back in January. Of course, if you’re going to re-enact the existential agonies of an eternity in Hell, it’s best to be among friends.
The No Exit tilt-a-whirl
First time around, this No Exit was presented at the Loeb Drama Center, on a thrust stage. At the smaller Zero Arrow Theatre, it’ll be in proscenium. But it’s the set that the performance revolves around. The encounters of three strangers, all new arrivals in Hell, play out on a platform that slants and shifts on a fulcrum depending on where actors stand and how they move. It’s a visual manifestation of the power dynamics that unfold as everybody gets acquainted and learns of one another’s transgressions, their tickets to the eternal furnace.
“As the run went on, it’s almost as if I got used to what the stage did, so I played it as any play,” says Will LeBow, who’s Garcin. “It became second nature enough that I didn’t have to focus on it as much. New stuff kept coming up as we all tried to explore it more. We were just getting the feel of the plays when we closed, so I’m looking forward to getting back on the tilt-a-whirl and seeing what else we can discover.”
MacDonald, who’s been involved in several revivals, often because a show is going on tour, is also looking forward to revisiting Hell. “The relationships in the play have a very intense quality. When it begins, they don’t know each other at all; then in an hour and half they know more about each other than they ever cared to know.” The play ends on an ambiguous note in which the characters, whose dynamic has been in constant flux, await the next power shift. “Since the play has that set-up in the end, it’s fun to think that Will, Remo, Paula, and I can just pick up the thread where we left it in the continuum of eternity.”
That eternity extends into the fall, when they’ll perform in Hartford and Montclair, New Jersey.
NO EXIT | June 22-July 9 | American Repertory Theatre | Zero Arrow Theatre, Mass Ave + Arrow St, Cambridge | $38-$50; $15 student rush | 617.547.8300
On the Web
American Repertory Theatre:http://www.amrep.org