NO EXIT: A Helluva Great Time at the American Conservatory Theatre

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

NO EXIT – now at the American Conservatory Theatre through May 1st, is a fresh and exciting approach to Jean-Paul Sartre’s enduring 1944 existentialist classic on the concept of Hell. It is the U.S. premiere of the 2008 Canadian production conceived by Electric Company Theatre and The Virtual Stage. Directed by Kim Collier, the production is a 5-Star achievement in its blending of live theatre with state-of-the-art video projection capabilities. The overall effect is riveting. As it turns out, eternal damnation does not take place in a massive and over-crowded fiery furnace, but rather in a claustrophobic confine – a small hotel room – where three condemned souls torture each other with incessant badgering, probing and mockery of their individual crimes, failings, and expectations. And just at the point where a catharsis may have been reached, the situation loops back to the moment of their arrival and begins anew. The audience remains with the Valet – in the outer area, observing all the goings-on via the large screen projections from “security cameras” within the trio’s room. It is a voyeur’s dream/nightmare come true.
Click here to purchase tickets on-line: NO EXIT

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Inez (Laara Sadiq, left), Estelle (Lucia Frangione, center),
Cradeau (Andy Thompson).
Photo, Michael Julian Berz

I am on the side of using projections of all sorts in stage productions. Last season’s hit, Nöel Coward’s Brief Encounter, was something on the order of Theatre embracing The Transcendental. Through projections and slotted screens, the actors moved in and out of film clips from scenes from the popular 1945 film version directed by David Lean. This blending of Magic and Theatrical Tradition has proven to be unforgettable. The Virtual Stage production of NO EXIT is essentially about live projections, onto three side-by-side screens suspended rear stage, displaying three characters trapped in a room offstage, the main stage serving as the Observation Room of the Valet from Hell. The result is voyeuristic intimacy. Likely to be remembered.
Click here to purchase tickets on-line: NO EXIT

Hint: Be prepared to stay afterwards. The tour onto the stage and into the Hotel Room – with it’s many tripods, cameras and swirling nests of cable – is totally worth the effort. “The room’s so small – you’d have to go outside to change your mind!” The characters of NO EXIT will be there forever.

cradeau
Cradeau (Andy Thompson) and the hotel Valet (Jonathon Young).
Photo, Barbara Zimonick

Kim Collier, who recently received the prestigious Siminovitch Prize, Canada’s largest theater award, explains the impulses behind her vision for Sartre’s oft-visited play: “In this new vision for No Exit, the sense of entrapment and alienation is more complete and palpable. By creating a theatrical space around the hotel room that traditionally defined the perimeter, we are ‘widening the frame’ on Sartre’s play. This gives us a platform to continue our investigations of the intersection of live theater and film, and to investigate how a silent, physical narrative can reframe an existing, well-known piece.”

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KIM COLLIER, Director
Rear projections: Lucia Frangione, Andy Thompson, and Laara Sadiq
Photo, Nathan Medd

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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