Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams

Daniel Kaemon, Madeline Fair

By Joe Straw

“She said she didn’t love him – five kids later.” 

“Well, why did they have five kids if she didn’t love him? And, why doesn’t she mend their own socks? She sends them here, to the farm, every summer so she can have some time alone to find a husband.”

“Hush now.  Not so loud – ‘kids are in the living room watching TV.”

“They cain’t hear us, they got their ears and eyes glued to that damn TV, sittin’ around, eatin' sugar butter biscuits, and not doin’ nothin’.” – Narrator – Overheard a conversation from my time in the south.

The Group Rep presents Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams, directed by L. Flint Esquerra, and wonderfully produced by Kevin Dobson through November 14, 2015 at The Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood, California.

Like a soft summer breeze, this Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starts as a breath, a whisper, and a small zephyr of spoken thoughts that enter the fractured crevices of a character’s moral imperfections.  It only takes one trifling odious word said in haste to gather momentum, and unable to stop, these words are like humid winds blown under unlocked doors and out through open windows for all to hear.  

In short, this Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, once seen, is like a perceptual gift that keeps on giving, days after you have seen it.  L. Flint Esquerra, director, leads a skilled ensemble that first elevates the imaginative spirit, first in small increments, and then builds creating a tumultuous storm, lifting to create a truly visual, emotional, and pleasurable feast.

I don’t remember the sound of the bathroom shower running as Margaret (Madeline Fair) enters upstage through the French doors.  Her beautiful dress marked with a buttered biscuit stain by one of them “no-neck monsters”.  But, I do remember the image of Brick (Daniel Kaemon) coming out, soaking wet, with a towel wrapped around his waist shambling over to get a drink.  

Margaret, or Maggie, acts as though this was not a pleasant sight; possibly an accustomed sight, but still one imagines the indecent thoughts coming from her of what she could do with this man, in any type of scenario she could be thinking.  

Margaret and Brick occupy a bedroom in Big Daddy Pollitt’s house and, yes, it is his house.  The house sits in the Mississippi Delta, a cotton plantation of 28,000 acres of the finest farmland “this side of the valley Nile”.   

The Mississippi Delta slides along the Mississippi River in the north and western section of the state of Mississippi. The river battles the banks, constantly pushing the reservoirs forward on its way into the Gulf of Mexico.  

Maggie and Brick share the bedroom once occupied by previous owners, Jack Straw and Peter Ochello (not seen), two male lovers from a forgotten time that secretly walked,  hand in hand, hidden among the white balustrades of the gallery and the Spanish moss.

But now, Brick, a former professional football player and sportscaster, has few words for Maggie who has enough for both of them. And Brick, listening to her despairing reflections, grabs a drink and waits for the alcohol to “click” in his brain in an effort to ease his mental suffering.

But, there is no relaxing with Maggie on the prowl especially when she takes off her stained buttered dress.  And with her sultry demeanor, in her rhythm of walking nylons, she stalks around in her slip, opening her legs and inviting a wet Brick to enter the gates of pleasure.  She pushes, like a purring cat at his ankles, wanting something. Her biological clock is running and at this moment any moisture coming, permeating from either body, is an open invitation for touch.

After all, this is the south and not the barren aridity of the Sahara.

But like an old bubbling coffee pot, there’s more problems brewing.  Big Daddy (Kent Butler) is dying from an advance form of colon cancer. How everybody knows except Big Daddy, Big Mama (Diane Frank), and Brick is a cause for concern, but Maggie is there to tell Brick and she wants him to know that they should start working on an offspring.

L to R: Kyra Schwartz, Todd Andrew Ball, Lily Daugherty, Jacob Accardo, Diane Frank, Andrew C. Grigorian, Mia Banham

Most importantly Maggie doesn’t want Gooper (Todd Andrew Ball) also known as “Brother Man,” his wife Mae (Kyra Schwartz) also known as “Sister Woman,” or their kids, three seen – Buster (Jacob Accardo), Sonny (Andrew C. Grigorian), Trixie (Lily Daugherty), two others (not seen), and with one more on the way, to inherit the 28,000 acres.

Brick’s been drinking too much especially after the death of his friend Skipper, Maggie says that Brother Man and Sister Woman have come down and are making references to Rainbow Hill.

“Place that’s famous for treatin’ alcoholics an’ dope fiends in the movies!” – Margaret

But Maggie, a poor girl from Nashville with no money, does not want Gooper to get the inheritance, and to that end she wants a child, now.

“Then Brother Man could get ahold of the purse strings and dole out remittances to us, maybe get power of attorney and sign checks for us and cut off our credit wherever, whenever he wanted!” – Margaret

“But, Brick?  You still have one big advantage.” – Margaret

Maggie is smart to recognize that Big Daddy dotes on Brick.  She compares that to Big Daddy’s relationship with Gooper and Mae, which Maggie, in catlike fashion, believes to be soiled.

And while they are discussing relationships, Maggie notes they haven’t made love in a long while and that’s not going to work if they want the farm.

You know, if I thought you would never, never, never make love to me again-I would go downstairs to the kitchen and pick out the longest and sharpest knife and stick it straight into my heart…” – Maggie

It is good that Maggie still believes there’s hope in the relationship and is among the living. But, one is not sure what Brick is thinking as he internalizes most of his dialogue.

Still it is Big Daddy’s birthday and Maggie bought a present from Brick for Big Daddy, But Brick believes in his own truth and will not take responsibility for the cashmere bathrobe or sign the card.

“Just write “Love Brick!” for God’s” – Margaret

“No.” – Brick

“You’ve got to.” – Margaret

“I don’t have to do anything.  I don’t want to do.  You keep forgetting the conditions on which I agreed to stay on living with you.” – Brick

Ouch, and very interesting comment that reveals much about their relationship.

Meanwhile, outside on the porch, Mae has practically got her ear glued to the door eavesdropping in on the conversation.  She enters with a bow in her hands, concerned about her children hurting themselves with, just the bow, no arrows.

Mae is up to more than the welfare of her children.  

With Mae gone, Maggie appeals for better judgment in the bedroom.

“…I served my term, can’t I apply for a – pardon?” – Margaret

No such luck. Brick doesn’t want to have anything to do with her and he even goes so far as to tell Maggie to take a lover.  But Maggie can’t see making love to anyone except him.  She quietly locks the door and moves into Brick's direction and tries, mightily, until Big Mama starts banging on the locked door.  

Brick, glad for the interruption, makes his way into the bathroom knowing Big Mama will find a way in.  And she does, practically ignoring Maggie, as she walks in through another door to find Brick in the bathroom.  She tells him that Big Daddy has a spastic colon and everything’s going to be okay.

Everyone knows that’s not the case Mae and Gooper, instead of going on vacation, have managed to show up - with the will in tow. Reverend Tooker (Scott Dewey) feeling God’s graces of bequeath is looking for a new addition to the church.  And Dr. Baugh (Bruce Nehlson) is there.  And they are all there for the celebration of Big Daddy’s birthday?  One thinks, not.

Madeline Fair is tremendous as Margaret, Maggie the cat. Maggie floats in, like a soft breeze, but manages to get all that she wants. Fair gives the character a tremendous arc, demanding in the first act but manages to control the events of the final act with such grace and natural abilities. Maggie has an intuitive knowledge of all the characters in her life and Fair creates a grand distinction for each relationship on stage.  Fair is a stunning creature and this is a performance you must run to see.

Daniel Kaemon is Brick and gives another remarkable performance.  So much is needed for the silent dialogue in the first act when Brick, drinks, and has little to say. Brick has a tremendous amount going on underneath, a silent dialogue filled with humor and a truth that he cannot release, trapped in a body wanting to get out, to come out, and not finding the will or the way. Kaemon does an extraordinary job of confessing his physical hunger for Skipper without coming right out and saying it.  Oh! The mendacity! Kaemon's performance is terrific!

I was caught up in the performance of Kyra Schwartz as Mae.  Schwartz manages to take that self-important Southern charm and uses it to her advantage in appearance and in the deeds as the character. Mae wants the farm and will stop at nothing to get it including dropping six kids like a common house cat, to prove her love to the entire family.  She eavesdrops to secure an advantage and listens in on her sister-in-law's bedroom to find out what’s not going on in there. Schwartz gives a brilliant performance and one that is truly recognizable from my time in the south.

One would think that Todd Andrew Ball would have the most difficult role as Gooper.  He is in an invidious position coming in with his nice fancy Memphis lawyer suit, dragging his wife and kids with him, and with a will in tow knowing full well that Big Daddy is dying.  We know what he wants; he’s got six kids and a wife to support.  But he’s got a problem, Big Daddy doesn’t like him, and he’s almost regarded as an adopted child. So Gooper has to overcome a lot of obstacles to get what he wants.  Ball nicely handles the role and there may be more to add to an already fine performance.

Diane Frank does some good work as Big Mama and there are some wonderful funny moments in her performance. At first glance this Big Mama is thin and unlike the character portrayed in the play.  But Frank manages to pull off the performance in grand style.

Daniel Kaemon, Kent Butler

Kent Butler accomplishes a dramatic turn in Big Daddy in his search for the truth.  He sees a lot of his son in himself, someone who is as honest as he can be.  Still, Big Daddy is looking for the truth.  And it doesn’t matter that his son had a relationship with his best friend, after all, he's had friends similar in nature, those that gave him the plantation.  Still, Big Daddy needs it, the truth, and no one is willing to offer it to him.  Butler is tremendous in the role.  The breakdown is something unexpected but worked in this production, but to what end, I’m not quite sure.

Scott Dewey, with a perpetual smile, does a grand job as Reverend Tooker and who could blame him.  He wants for the church and he is standing like a vulture over a not quite dead carcass, waiting for the inevitable.  And it’s all about his church, needing something, wanting something for the church and what better place to be.  Looking back, his performance was extremely funny!

Sometimes one wonders about the objective of a performer and what a character is doing in the show.  Case in point Bruce Nehlsen as Dr. Baugh.  And looking back, he is the one with the definitive truth that must be shared, must be concise, and point blank in a place where one can be comfortable to receive the information. Trying to give comfort and structure to an end of day scenario in a house reeking of a disorderly formality is a trying job that someone must do and why not him.  

Felicia Taylor E. does a fine job as Sookie but more could be made of her fine southern sensibilities. Still, she has a very nice presence on stage.

Much can be said about the performances of the children in this show.  Mia Banham creates a fine character in Dixie, Jacob Accardo is also very credible as Buster, and Andrew C. Grigorian does some fine work as Sonny. In the south, the children are mostly underfoot while adults want to have more than a polite conversation and in this play the children give it just the right touch, being in the moment, and providing excellent background voices and sounds.

I don’t remember seeing Lily Daugherty perform as Trixie the night I was there, and some of the smaller members of the cast were not present at curtain call.

Steve Shaw plays Tooker as well but did not perform the night I was there.

Harold Clurman talks about a strong through line in his book On Directing and in L. Flint Esquerra’s version the strong theme of “want” justifies the entire look of the show.  From the gossamer charms of Reverend Tooker to the impertinent lawyer son with the will in hand, all of the characters are greedy with want. Esquerra brings out the additional flavors of adultery, the secrets of homosexuality, and the human vanities of not being wanted at the peak of a characters sexual prime. The show needs wind to blow the Spanish moss and more wind during the storm as is typical with  southern storms.

Dialect Coach Glenda Morgan Brown does a fine job with the actors but more could be made of the accents from Mississippi, Nashville, and Memphis, which are all very different in tone and manner.

The Set Design by Chris Winfield is sublime and does not overpower the actors.  In fact the set is an actor’s delight.

Angela M. Eads is responsible for the Costume Design and each character was costumed marvelously and perfectly suited for the time.

J. Kent Inasy, Lighting Design, had a slight problem with the upstage light, specifically behind the bed, where the actors were in partial shadow – a minor glitch that will be fixed by the time you see this.

Other members of the crew are as follows:

Ceirra Burton and Pascale Gigon – Assistant Producers
Debi Tinsley – Assistant Director
Steve Shaw – Sound Design
Christian Ackerman – Videographer
Eddie Liu – Fight Choreographer
Nora Feldman – Public Relations
Dough Haverty - Art & Soul Design – Graphic Design
Drina Durazo – Program

Run! Run! Run! And take someone who lusts for you.

Through November 14, 2015

The Lonny Chapman Theatre
10900 Burbank Boulevard
North Hollywood, CA  91601

Reservations:  818-763-5990

Monday, October 12, 2015

Drunk Girl by Josefina López – Additional Plays written by Rocío Díaz and Libette Garcia


By Joe Straw

When trying to reduce sexual assault, labeling all forms of sexual misconduct, including unwanted touches and sloppy kisses, as rape is alarmist and unhelpful. We need to draw distinctions between behavior that is criminal, behavior that is stupid and behavior that results from the dance of ambiguity. – Carol Tavris, social psychologist -

Josefina López says this show is not about male bashing.  No males were bashed in the making of this production. Still, being male, one gets uncomfortable.

In the set, by Set Designer Marco De Leon, it is interesting to note the words “POWER”, in art deco-like paintings, on flats layered to form a “V” shape. Those flats are standing above a drawn symbol of a uterus, complete with the spiral shapes of fallopian tubes.

While I love Josefina Lopez’s work, I prefer her full-length plays, which may not be possible, given her busy schedule.  Still, her vignettes are a tasty treat on this night.    
One waits for the main course on another day.  

Casa 0101 Theater presents Drunk Girl written by Josefina López, additional plays written by Rocío Díaz and Libette Garcia, directed by Claudia Duran, Elvia Susana Rubalcava, María G. Martínez and produced by Josefina López, Claudia Duran, Lindsey Haley through October 18, 2015.

This production is brutally honest in its presentation of rape. López’s intention was to make the reference loud and clear. Yet the pain and destruction caused by rape may be more powerfully presented using subtlety and nuance. In a theatrical production, frequently “less is more”, and that wins the theatrical day.

Still, despite the seriousness of the subject matter, the show had funny moments, with some fine actors working on their craft. One can applaud Casa 0101 for giving Latinos the forum to act, write, and direct.  And I admit that I go to these performances to see the small gems.

Red Flag Game Show by Josefina López and directed by Claudia Duran is about Apa (Henry Aceves Madrid) and his daughter Teenage Girl (Maria Villa) who wants to date boys.  Apa doesn’t think she is ready but agrees to let her date only if she wins a TV game show where she will need to buzz in to guess the various types of men: stalkers, sociopaths, and serial killers.   (TV these days.)  

Asking For It by Josefina López and directed by Elvia Susana Rubalcava finds a couple of men hanging out in the park and throwing out lewd remarks to women running in the park. Nobody wins in this unpleasant exchange between strangers.

Stick-Her by Josefina López and directed by María G. Martínez.  Stick-Her takes sandwich boards and personal post it notes to a new level. During her night of salsa, after having too much to drink, a woman gets drunk plastered with ugly signs on her back saying “Warning I’m drunk…” or “I have herpes” so men won’t take advantage of her. Nice friends.

Alex, The Self Defense Instructor by Josefina López and directed by María G. Martínez finds Alex (Rosa Navarrete), a self defense instructor, who has been arrested for fighting, defending herself, and then having to explain why she did what she did.    

Unlucky Man by Josefina López and directed by Claudia Duran is the story of John (Alex “Alpharoah” Alfaro) who misinterprets signals from a sexual partner and later finds himself in prison. And while he is there he tells someone what it is liked being raped in prison.    

I Want You by Josefina López and directed by Claudia Duran is the story of three exotic dancers—how they feel about dancing, being in control of the men on the dance floor, and wanting to be sexy, but not necessarily wanting to have sex.

Can Finally Laugh About It by Josefina López and directed by María G. Martínez is the story of a stand up comedian Altagracias (Jasia Topete) doing her set at a comedy club when her story of her rape becomes uncomfortable and then a heavily padded owner (Henry Aceves Madrid) breaks it up and gets her off the stage but not before she makes her point.  

Second Chance by Josefina López and directed by Claudia Duran is the story of self-defense instructor, Mr. Black (Samuel Solorio) and Shy Female Student (Maia Villa) who is asked to come back, after hours, to get a second chance to pass the self-defense test.  

Pink Scars by Rocío Díaz and directed by Gina Median is a play about three women and their stories of being raped at various ages in their life.

Lolita Corazón by Josefina López and directed by Claudia Duran is a story with a lot of depth and poignancy. Dolores (Rosa Lisbeth Navarrete) is at a pharmacy to have a prescription filled for a female contraceptive.  She is one woman, with two different personalities, Dolores is cautious and her other personality, Lolita (Maia Villa), is outgoing and fearless; yet both are the same woman.

A Real Man by Josefina López and directed by María Martínez is one that I especially enjoyed.  Nacho (Samuel Solorio) plays a man giving a talk about being a real man, finding the answers that make it so, and breaking down in the process. Solonio does some terrific work in this play that doesn’t have a strong finale.  

Life Is Not A Fairy Tale by Josefina López and directed by Elvia Susana Rubalcava is another wonderful story of a girl who wants to go out dancing (Jasia Topete) and her mother (Juanita Gina Medina) who tries to talk her out of it. The mother shares her story about the time when she has the same desires with a disastrous outcome.  Medina and Topete give terrific turns as mother and daughter with a surprising ending.

Stand Up for Women by Josefina López and directed by María G. Martinez is the story of students and Professor Avila (Juanita Gina Medina) who lectures on rape and how women are controlled.

Devil Insider Her by Josefina López and directed by Elvia Susana Rubalcava is one I found absolutely fascinating.  Looking like an SNL skit, this is a story about three women in a bar who cannot stop talking about their one friend who embarrassed them the night before after she had a drink.  Debbie (Melissa Perl) then joins them and apologizes to everyone, well, not really, as her apology is a vacuous wordy stare, and to no one in particular. And then, after the one drink, she behaves much worse, worse than how the others described.  Think feeding Gremlins after midnight. Debbie is like Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde and men had better hold on.  The actors’ work is stylized and the play was a joy to watch.

Drunk Girl by Lisbette Garcia and directed by Claudia Duran is the story of Lucia (Melissa Perl) sharing at an AA meeting about how she got to this moment in time.

Yes!  Let’s Have Sex! By Josefina López, created by the Ensemble, and directed by Claudia Duran is a mishmash of ideas from the cast including the “Bill Cosby” Jello bit on video interestingly performed by Henry Kelly Alexander (who also was in a number of other skits during the night). Alexander has a nice stage presence.

All through the night and during the scene changes, the characters came acting out as if they were in various stages of inebriation.  One is not sure why the director did this or what lessons were to be learned.  Some were funny movements on and off stage, yet the point should have been clearer.

Ideally, it is probably a better idea to stay sober, and to bring a friend, and or a designated driver.   

Alex “Alpharoah” Alfaro has some nice moments, but needs to do more work in character and backstory to add to the characters’ depth.  

Henry Alexander Kelly has a good look and I can see him doing Saturday Night Live given more work and character study.  I saw some this in the Cosby skit and Devil Insider Her.

Henry Aceves Madrid is always a pleasure to watch.  I’m not sure about his padded outfit or his voice in Can Laugh About It that does not ring true.   

Jasia Topete is an actor that can do many things and she is surprising in her roles on stage.  She is a fresh face and everyone loves fresh faces.

Juanita Gina Medina really gives her all to the various scenes she is in.

Maia Villa has a wonderful presence and expressive eyes, and does some nice work in her scenes.

Melissa Perl is outstanding in the Devil Inside Her and comical in Stick-Her.  She is thin, with a wry sense of humor, and has expressive green eyes.  She also has a lovely voice. One can only imagine watching her do other fantastic things.

Rosa Lisbeth Navarrete has an unassuming character as Dolores in Lolita Corazón but is outstanding in the role.

Samuel Solorio does some outstanding work throughout the various pieces he is in but he also does the small things when he is not in the scenes that bring a lot of life to a character.  These are the intangible things that make an actor shine on stage.

Other members of the production team are as follows:

Wendy Castro – Assistant Director
Sophia Sanchez – Stage Manager
Estibaliz Giron – Assistant Stage Managers
Sohail e. Najafi – Technical Director
Marco De Leon – Set Design
Rafael O. Calerón – Set Builder Assistant
Joshua Cuellar – Lighting Design
Jorge Villanueva – Light Board Operator
Abel Alvarado – Costume Designer
Julius Bronola – Assistant Costume Designer
Vincent A. Sanchez – Sound Designer & Projections
Steve Moyer Public Relations – Press Representative
Ed Krieger – Photography
Soap Studio, Inc. – Graphic Design

Run!  Have fun! And take a designator driver/body guard. 

Reservations:  323-263-7684
email tickets:
buy online:

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre

Carolyn Hennesy (l.), Erica Edd, Rick Friesen, Alan Naggar, Barbara Ann Howard, Kristen Egermeier, Matt Fowler, Austin Musick - Photo by Kent Minault

By Joe Straw

He owed me $138.01 and I couldn’t find him.  He didn’t answer my calls and that wasn’t like him.  Not paying me, that was like him, but not answering the proverbial door, well, he’s never done that. For two years he was nowhere to be found, then, as one does with a lost cause, I wrote him and the money off, when unexpectedly, he walked into my office. 

I found out that, during those two years, he had died. Well, not completely.  Five heart attacks couldn’t kill him, completely.

And in his smiling Middle Eastern accent: “I was dead too - and I want you to know there was no white light, no one to come get me from the other side, there was nothing but nothing, done, finished, quiet, peace.” – Narrator.

InterACTtheatre company presents No Exit, a revolutionary play by Jean Paul Sartre, directed by Ken Minault, and produced by Michele Rose Naggar from September 17 to November 1, 2015 at Oh My Ribs! Theatre, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, California.

If you believe, don’t believe, think you want to believe, or don’t want to believe, you should run to see this show. Come over to the other side, the side you think is there and look into their three walls, reside in the fourth, and watch this remarkable show.

This show happens in small earthly increments.

First of all, there is a little bit of theatrics when one arrives outside the theatre.  On this night, a couple stick their heads out, alá the Marx Brothers, look at me, and inform me they’ll be opening soon, slide, and bolt lock the door.   

And I’m left there standing along Santa Monica Boulevard breathing in deadly VW exhaust fumes, waiting to expire, when five minutes before curtain, they allowed us entrance.   

And before I enter the theatre, someone interrupts me and asks me to sign a form:

Indenture of Retainer in Reference to a Soul
(This is a Standard Contract – You don’t have to read it.)

“Standard.” Ha!  Only in Hollywood.

I signed it and then had second thoughts, big thoughts.

The Valet (Rick Friesen) slides the door open of this mausoleum and with his powerful voice scares the bejesus out of me as he announces my name.  It is all rather comedic and ghastly.  Couples are treated semi-respectfully and Valet moves one step further to disparage the single patron, no he shames them.  (Take someone with you.)   

After all are seated, the play begins.

In my mind, No Exit is an illusion, of characters presenting a false front of imaginings and impressions in a place of espial, under the watchful eye of a higher power.

So, as a means of describing the play, I will offer an observation in the voice of the character you don’t see, the Valet’s Uncle. The bold quotes are from the play.

“Valet’s eternity starts with a grand beginning and Valet didn’t let me down.  It is the proverbial stake in the heart, and it is also the way in, with No Exit. You may applaud.

“I’m Joseph Garcin, journalist and man of letters by profession.” - Garcin

Despite his brave front, Joseph Garcin (Matt Fowler) is a coward; there is no mistake about that.  If I could engrave that one thing into your ineffectual wandering mind, it is that Garcin is a coward. And that is all.  Not really all, there is a little more. 

Garcin was caught running away from a fight, an important fight.  They found him on the train, seated innocently.  The soldiers politely took him off the train and executed him for being a deserter.  Twelve bullets raced toward that coward’s heart and found a way through his abrigo, bleeding where cowards bleed, gasping for breath, face down, and in the dirt.

For Garcin, it was his peripeteia. Pity.

Garcin is here now, in my little playpen, some call it hell.  There are other names. This is not what he imagined it to be but they never do.  They expect instruments of torture, flames, and red-hot pincers—funny.  

And Garcin expects that he is here because of something he has done and it doesn’t have anything to do with the bullets. I wonder what that could be? The others will enervate his smug confidence once they arrive.

The Valet is my nephew.  He adores that name. Valet introduces Garcin into the room, with the nasty Second Empire furniture motif, and a male bronze, complete with a raging bulge, something that the ever-so-masculine-coward Garcin would like and maybe one of the others that will follow.   

I took special care to provide a room filled with articles that are unmovable, including the bronze, and everything is precisely where it should be, angles and all.  

Garcin and Valet don’t get along, just as I expected.  Garcin has an air about him.  That won’t last long.

My nephew doesn’t have his eyelids.  They have atrophied and now he’s left them in a forgotten place.

This place is like that.  

Garcin has not gotten the hint about the room.

“I shall never sleep again. But, then how shall I endure my own company?” – Garcin

There is no way out.  Garcin may ring for the Valet, but hell is capricious.  Funny to hear Garcin inquire of what lies beyond the door.

“There’s a passage.” – Valet

“And at the end of the passage?” – Garcin

“There’s more room, more passages, and stairs.” – Valet

“And what lies beyond them?” –

“That’s all.” – Valet

Not a good start for the honeymoon accommodations.  No books, no windows, only a paper-knife, and I laugh every time I think about it.

One can plainly see that when Garcin is left alone, the coward peeks his head out, like the turtlehead coming out of the shell.  Oh really, the paroxysm of necessity, the pounding on the door is so, unnecessary. And not the least bit provocative.

My dear Valet has to provide some comfort, it’s part of his job, so he opens the door to give the room an extra added flavor, Inez Serrano (Carolyn Hennesy), a fashionable lesbian postal clerk.  Oh! How I detest that word, lesbian.  How about “A lover who wings another way”

“…we should make a point of being extremely courteous to each other.  That will ease the situation for us both.” – Garcin

“I’m not polite.” – Inez

“Then I must be polite for two.” – Garcin

Not only a coward but a bore as well with his weasel mouth for which Inez is not particularly fond of, and she tells him that, because that’s the type of woman she is, straightforward, to the point, and very nasty to his contradictory masculinity.

It is only when Estelle Rigault (Austin Musick) joins that Inez tempers her flair. Inez is intoxicated with the female form, her dress, and those delicate hands, which are carefully looked after.  But Estelle is perplexed and it is up to Inez to help her.   

“Estelle!” – Inez

“Yes?” – Estelle

“What have your done? I mean, why have they sent you here? – Inez

“That’s just it.  I haven’t a notion, not the foggiest.  In fact, I’m wondering if there hasn’t been some ghastly mistake.” – Estelle  

Oh she knows but she is having a hard time coming to terms. This is turning out as much fun as I had planned.”

(I’m told that I should tell you that I’ve switched voices.  Thank you for your indulgence.)

I’ve seen No Exit in multiple forms and on different occasions.  By all means, there is no wrong or right way to execute the play.  One might think there are better choices, or creatively, a better fit.  Certainly, this particular production has some very nice things in it and Kent Minault, the director, presents the piece as a comedy (I think it is a comedy.) with just the right touch of frightening elements for those in need of that form of drama. On this particular night, moments were missed that will probably come together when you see it. But still, this is an outstanding night of theatre.

Matt Fowler as Garcin brings a lot of humor to the role. Garcin is afraid of his own shadow, certainly afraid of this new beginning, despite his brave front. And in the play, this weakness defines the character and movement must be made with that in mind.  I didn’t see much of that in Fowler’s character.  In his version, Garcin’s brave soul wants to avoid the conflict by making it an introspective process.  He is not showing us the fear in his character which one must have in order to realize the truth and ultimately his salvation.  In the end, we never get his full story.  It’s part of his work in progress for salvation.  Still, this is a fine role for Fowler and he does remarkably well.

Carolyn Hennesy plays Inez very delicately and is surprising in her manner and execution.  Hennesy is very calm and relaxed, and she lets the moments play to great satisfaction. There is a question about how much she wants her female companion in hell.  Does it go far enough in terms of want? She does everything in order to get the woman to wing her way.  Also, Inez is not polite.  The song she sings is about people being executed did not come off as an instigating dig in Garcin’s direction. It was beautifully sung but did not hit the mark with the intention it deserved.  Hennesy came out during curtain call and politely curtsied but more was in her look, that things did not go accordingly as planned, that it was an off night.  But this was Hennesy’s night.  The work was excellent and almost flawless. (Despite my ramblings.)

Austin Musick is Estelle and there were some fine moments in her performance.  But the role really requires Estelle to be dripping with want, especially for a man, any man will do, cowards included. This Estelle conveys a sinister debutante, a poor southern girl married into wealth, rather than a woman who uses her beauty to get what she wants, when she wants it.  But, her choices, although sometimes interesting, kept her in the middle of the road.  One would want to see her fighting off the woman one moment, and pulling the man to her every chance she got, despite his cowardly handicap.

Regarding Kent Minault’s direction the one thing that caught my attention was the lipstick scene, which did not covey the meaning of want but portrayed the scene as someone moistening her lips.  Also, on the other side of the lipstick, was a woman who desperately wants Estelle and getting nowhere.  This scene defines the relationship for all three, of three individuals stuck in hell, and not being able to get what they want for eternity. 

Also, in the character’s want of salvation, and striving for the truth to move on, to eventually get out, none are shocked to learn the true nature of the other’s crimes. No Exits suggest they are trying to get out but won’t because they can never fully come clean. Their stories are very shaky and suspect and also, they are not reliable reporters of the truth.   

Alternate cast members who did not perform the night I was there include Erica Edd (Inez), Kristen Egermeier (Estelle), Barbara Ann Howard (Valet), and Alan Naggar (Valet).

Alan Naggar served as the Executive Producer.

Michele Rose Naggar was also a Producer and the Costume Designer.

Kurtis Bedford, Set Designer, displays appropriate skills in this very workable small intimate theatre.

Carol Doehring is the Lighting Designer.

Jonathan Sacks – Musical Direction
Ari Radousky – Stage Manager
Aaron Francis – Stage Manager
Philip Sokoloff – Publicist

Run!  Run!  And take someone who has seen No Exit a number of times if for no other reason than to get another perspective of hell.