No Exit | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader
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No Exit, Affinity Theatre, at National Pastime Theater. One room, three couches, and a trio of unpleasant people with shameful secrets--is it any wonder Jean-Paul Sartre's existential drama is so popular among adventurous young companies? The diversity of the characters alone--a radical journalist, a sour postal clerk, and a spoiled socialite--allows for a near infinite variety of interpretations.

Director Betty-Joyce Symphony has opted to deemphasize social and sexual politics, focusing instead on the individual's battle to reconcile self-image with the evaluations of others. Her casting of Xena-sized Mila Davydov as the kittenish Estelle and bantamweights Alyssa Valentine and Mike Nelson as the icy ball buster Inez and blustering Garcin challenges our prejudices even as the characters are being tested. Symphony also breaks with the script by allowing the three to shift their furniture into strategic formations, making for substantial kinetic relief in a largely verbal drama--and there's some interesting choreography as these vastly different people jockey for position, including a clever ballroom-dance sequence and some gleefully macabre games with a letter opener.

Though the artists' youth and the low-budget technical elements give this inaugural production a classroom ambience, Affinity Theatre's care and attention to execution are auspicious.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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