“Hell is other people.”
On Thursday night, I came face to face with that loaded statement in the Next Stage production of Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit at South of Broadway Theatre Co. in North Charleston. Directed by Theatre Charleston Award Nominee Mark Gorman, this exploration of existentialist angst examines the notion of what Hell really is for three souls destined to be locked in a room together forever. And yes, it’s as dark and twisted as it sounds.
I sat front row in the round-table style theater, bringing me as up close and personal as possible to the actors. My proximity to the action intensified the performance in a way I had not experienced before. I felt the blinding lights in my eyes, and the sticky, hot air mentioned often by the characters made me feel flushed (the wine probably helped with that as well). I was no longer just an onlooker; I was in Hell with them.
Watching the show, however, was not Hell at all. For such somber subject matter, I was surprised at how often I found myself laughing. The actors did a superb job of offering up comedic relief while keeping the overall tone of the play dark. One minute I would be laughing, and the next I would feel uncomfortable due to their gruesome confessions.
The set was minimalist, consisting of just three small cloth covered benches and a center statue (which I later discovered represents the darkest sins of each character). Between the bare setting and round-table venue, the pressure was on for the actors to provide an enticing performance. They delivered. The show was cast incredibly well, and each character was believable to an almost unnerving degree. While there were a few minor slip ups, they did not detract from the overall performance.
The play has only two nights left at South of Broadway before it moves to The Flowertown Players’ larger 199 seat theater. Though this change of venue may take some of the intimacy away, I have no doubt that it will offer up an equally brilliant performance. See No Exit and decide for yourself if Hell really is other people.
South of Broadway:
August 30 & 31st at 8:00 PM
September 5, 6, & 7 at 8:00 PM
September 12, 13, & 14 at 8:00 PM
September 8 & 15 at 3:00 PM
words: Daniela Weinapple
Categories: Performing Arts, Review
Tags: Flowertown Players, Next Stage, Performing Arts, South Of Broadway Theatre Company