No Exit | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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No Exit, Cuerda Floja Arts Troupe, at Salsa Cafe. Jean-Paul Sartre maintained in this play that "hell is other people," but in the Cuerda Floja Arts Troupe's English-language production, hell is also a windowless 60-foot-square room carpeted in orange-and-brown shag rug and furnished with three uncomfortable chairs. The single door is kept locked almost throughout, even as a prominent "exit" sign mocks the occupants.

Fitting three people onto the cramped stage at the rear of the Salsa Cafe alone appears to promote a visceral interpretation of this popular drama. Director Eduardo Von adds vivid images juxtaposing Goya-like symbolism with sly humor, as when the "guests" at this infernal hotel are ushered in, then tethered by ropes while they relive their death throes until the bellboy (whose badge reads "Hellton") severs the cords like a low-rent version of the Fate Atropos.

Playing the mismatched residents doomed to annoy one another for all eternity, Dan Halstead, Aimee Bravo, and Nadine Velazquez make the most of Paul Bowles's colloquial translation. And despite some first-weekend glitches (notably in the videotaped footage depicting cynical versions of the earthly events the characters describe), the original concepts of this production more than redeem the occasionally uneven execution.

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