Monday, May 09, 2016

No Exit at Prairie Players Civic Theatre

Strange as it may seem you can manage to see good productions of important and seldom performed plays in and around my hometown in what has been often called Forgottonia.  Two weeks ago the Monmouth College Theatre did a full throated performance of Aphra Behn's The Rover-- a seminal female playwright's shot at seventeenth century English comedy.  It sold out the Fusion Theatre in Monmouth.

This weekend we traveled to Galesburg to see another classic at the Prairie Players Civic Theatre.  Jean Paul Sartre's No Exit  lies comfortably in its slot as definer of the Existentialist tradition in drama in post war France and worthy predecessor to the Theatre of the Absurd. 

Though Sartre's dramatic characters have often been seen more as mouthpieces for his philosophy rather than evocative human beings, this tightly organized 90 minute one-act still packs a theatrical punch. The young cast nicely caught the flow of the script as they moved from obstinate and befuddled denizens of their chambered hell toward the discovery that they were each other's torturers and that they made the lives they now are being called to task for.  In the small part of the bellboy, Adam Duffield helped immeasurably with setting up the ironic humor that continued right through to the last laughing jag that finally receded into horrid silence.  

With some memory of my shot at directing the show some thirty years ago, I do have a few items of hopefully constructive criticism.  A slightly more closed in space might cut down on the long crosses and better support the built in claustrophobia of the script. There is also a lot of dialog referencing  the heat of the place and a slightly warmer lighting tone might be helpful. I wouldn't wish for more of the intense crimson of the pre-show set-up, but maybe some amber creeping in as the room heats up.

Even with a constrained budget that allowed for few technical frills, I would like to have seen the stage floor firmed up.  Or if not, perhaps a rug could have been used to mute the sounds of creaking boards and constant clicking of high heels. 

No matter, the director Michael John Bennett, is to be congratulated for bringing this too little performed drama to the area. The evening was a true success for my wife and I and the performance   definitely engendered a spirited post-production discussion.  Sure theatre can be full of nonsense and simply enjoyable, but for my money the addition of thought to an entertainment is what makes live theatre sing.  

Thanks to all the cast and crew for a fine night out at the theatre. 

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