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No Exit a shining success from the Wrecking Crew
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No Exit a shining success from the Wrecking Crew

by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

No Exit
Stone Soup Theatre
Through October 10


When I was a young punk hanging out in Austin, Texas, I was given a copy of Nietzsche's Ecce Homo. Admittedly, this was probably not the best place to start an exploration of existential thought for a hayseed quite literally just off the farm.

Through this unsupervised reading, I somehow got the faulty impression that being an existentialist meant giving God the finger. As I was already in that state of mind, I began to tell people I was an existentialist, and I began to earnestly write really awful "existentialist" plays. Fortunately, this entire episode only lasted until I read Dharma Bums. That's when I became a beat poet and began to earnestly write really awful beat poetry instead.

But you don't exorcise your existential streaks with ease. And deep down, and with the addition of later reading in the company of a couple of amazing teachers, I still have a deep respect for existential art and thought.

That's why I got excited about The Wrecking Crew's production of No Exit by the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre at the Stone Soup Theatre's Downstage. No Exit is one of the most famous existential plays, and I had never seen it performed.

No Exit is about three people who have just died and find themselves escorted to a single room by a stoic valet (the only other character in the one-act play). The drama unfolds as they get to know each other in a room they cannot leave. Just to make things juicy, they each have a secret, and the fun unfolds as they all come to grips with the life they lived and what that means for them now.

The Wrecking Crew is a new theatre ensemble founded by Tyrone Brown, Colin Featherston-Wilkinson, and John Paul Wilson. No Exit is their inaugural production so being there on opening night was something special.

The theater is small; it seats about 40 people by my count, and the stage is about the size of my Capitol Hill apartment's bedroom. However, the most is made of the space available. The sets are sparse with a door (the door), three couches, a mantle, and a rug.

The actors do a terrific job. Still, Colin Featherston-Wilkinson stands out as Inez, the manipulative Lesbian and only one of the three who is brutally honest with everyone, including herself. Featherston-Wilkinson looked like she came straight out of a Paris photograph circa 1940, and she owns Inez from the moment she enters. She is steely when confronting Garcin (John Paul Wilson) and seductive when wooing Estelle (Marta Kotzian).

Wilson is excellent as the cowardly Garcin. He has a nice pitch to his voice that is distinctive and clear. He plays Garcin with clinched tension that feels tamped down until the last 15 minutes.

Kotzian seemed tentative but settled in nicely as Estelle, the society lady who married well but didn't let that stop her from pursuing other men.

The mission of The Wrecking Crew, according to the program, is interested in, "the pursuit of 'yes,' the creation of shining successes and epic failures, the embrace of fearlessness, the provocation of artists and audiences, and last but not least, the end of theatrical errantry."

I learned a new word: errantry. I looked it up and this is what I found: "The quality, condition, or fact of wandering, especially in search of adventure." I plan on using this word at least three times this week.

Now, I don't know why The Wrecking Crew is so opposed to theatrical wandering (not all who wander are lost, after all), but I do know that their inaugural production of No Exit is a shining success, and as an audience member I found it provocative. I said "yes" to everything they had to offer, so aside from the wandering thing, I am officially a fan and I am sincerely grateful to them for bringing this amazing play to life in such a wonderful manner.

No Exit runs Friday and Saturday nights through October 10 at the Stone Soup Theatre's Downstage, 4035 Stone Way N. Curtain is at 8 p.m. and tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door and available through Brown Paper Tickets or by calling 1-800-838-2006.

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