Hell is other people.
This startling revelation is the central theme in “No Exit,” the existentialist play by French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, to be performed by Generic Theater Company this weekend.
The play details the experience of three people who arrive in hell – who shed conventional notions of torture when they discover their punishment is to be locked in a room together. “No Exit,” written during the Nazi occupation of France, explores the idea of personal freedom, responsibility and how actions are the only expressions of character. The show will be directed by Patrick Pasake, a sophomore.
Pasake saw the play his freshman year for a class and said he has been dreaming of putting on “No Exit” for the past 18 months.
Pasake said the show relies exclusively on three characters, who are responsible for carrying out the complete action of the work. Props and sets are minimal, said Pasake, who welcomed the challenge of the character-intensive work.
“The characters were most challenging. The cast essentially had to memorize one-third of the script each and then portray these deep, earthy, crunchy characters,” he said, adding, “Professionals have trouble taking on these roles.”
“No Exit,” which was originally written in French, offers both an English and American translation. Pasake is adamant about the use of the latter.
“Other translations maintain elevated, stilted language, while Paul Bowles’s translation brings the dialogue down to how people actually speak. It may be a little cruder, but it’s more natural,” he said.
The self-proclaimed theater veteran said he wrote on the walls of the set to add a personal touch. He evoked conventional interpretations of hell with the writing, with references to Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” the seven deadly sins and T.S. Eliot’s “The Hallow” to remind the audience how this play constructs contrasting representations of hell.
“The show is meant to freak you out a little bit. The performers are tremendous. We’re confident the audience will be impacted,” said senior Kiernan McGowan, the artistic director.
“Generic Theater Company strives to be a little different and not just put on a fun show,” said junior Scout Seide, an executive producer of the company. “Our shows strike a chord with every audience member, whether they leave feeling excited or angry or contemplative.”
She said, “We want to provoke an emotion, a response.”
“No Exit” will be performed Thursday at 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday nights at 7 and 10 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door.