No Exit

by Jean-Paul Sartre

The Pearl Theatre, NYC

See More Great Images by Al Foote


Under Linda Ames Key's penetrating direction, Bradford Cover as Cradeau, Jolly Abrahams as Inez and Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris go at each other hammer and tongs, all acting skills honed. "Hammer and tongs" is the cliché phrase, of course, but they do go at each other literally with a letter opener. As for the room in which the three -- siding two against one, siding two against a different one, siding each against the other two -- are incarcerated, it's a stunner. Harry Feiner thought it up, somewhat in accordance with Sartre's stage direction that calls for a Second Empire-like drawing room with a large bronze sculpture on the mantelpiece.


Feiner's drawing room idea here is to place three solid-color divans about and a tall standing sculpture that Donald Judd might have concocted in a hurry. The inspirations here are the high walls. At first, it looks as if they're papered with an abstract pattern, but as the one-act tragicomedy progresses and Ann Wrightson lights them from behind, mountains of debris are revealed, hemming in the three dead combatants that much more claustrophobically.


Feiner has crafted what may be the best set the Pearl has ever seen. It's only fitting, since this is without question one of the finest productions the company has ever offered.

David Finkle • The First Nighter: Huff Post Arts & Culture

The current production of "No Exit" presented by The Pearl Theatre Company was my first exposure to this group that regularly produces stage classics. It will certainly not be my last visit. This production is stunning in its design and execution. Directed by Linda Ames Key, the cast of two men and two women are flawless in their interpretations of Sartre's hellish characters who serve as one another's tormentors in the embodiment of the author's iconic line:"Hell is other people." This is theater at a very high level of professionalism. It comes with my strong recommendation.

Al Chase • White Rhino Report

Director Linda Ames Key successfully makes her Pearl debut with this maelstrom of emotional complexity.

Epoch Times

No Exit makes for a compelling evening in the theater.

Looks like hell is a step up, as the characters in Jean-Paul Sartre's mid century allegory step off the elevator into a swank upscale loft in the Pearl Theater Company's stylish production of No Exit. A first New York revival since its award winning Broadway debut in 1946, the play, adapted from the French by Paul Bowles, is freshened up: a statue of Napoleon from the original is now a modernist sculpture, a microcosm of the loft space. In this peculiar art piece, the rectangular shoebox-sized spaces are multiplied and piled up, like apartments in a high rise, reflecting the dwelling where three characters discuss life's meaning, as it were, romping about, posing on three divans. The ensemble, featuring Bradford Cover, Jolly Abraham, Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris, and Pete McElligott, is good at conveying this imagined post-death dialogue. And this being 2014, the politics are less specific than Sartre's post-war vision of eternity, but the mood could not be more focused. Behind a scrim on both sides of the stage, the detritus of lives, broken furnishings, and just plain stuff are a reminder: You won't need them here.

Huffington Post

Hell is other people: That is the startling (and oft cited) epiphany of Cradeau, one of the three characters in Jean-Paul Sartre's 1944 play No Exit, now receiving a revival at The Pearl Theatre Company. Cradeau's revelation may be true, but in director Linda Ames Key's intelligent and well-acted production, it is only part of the story.

Zachary Stewart • Theatremania

Boasting lofty ceilings, windows to the living realm, and a torture room made just for you, the hell of Jean-Paul Sartre, as revisited by director Linda Ames Key, is slow, subtle, and poetically just.


The production leaves us wondering whether we're supposed to pity the characters or feel as though justice has been served. We're left with a strong sense that the three of them are still there after we've left the theatre, raking each other over the coals, forever circling.

Anna Chazelle • Exeunt Magazine

If Jean-Paul Sartre now occupies some dark corner of Hades -- heaven would surely be a torment to him -- then he must be gazing up with a smile these days, thanks to the Pearl's revival of No Exit. A work more likely to turn up in a college syllabus than on a New York stage, it proves to be surprisingly playable in Linda Ames Key's fully clawed production.


Near the end, having wrestled each other to a standstill, they collapse onto their divans, offering peals of bitter hilarity at their ridiculous shared fate. Having fought their way toward a recognition of their authentic selves, they remain condemned to their peculiar eternal sentence. If you've ever contemplated what the phrase "laughter of the damned" signifies, you can experience it firsthand at the Pearl.

Lighting & Sound America • David Barbour

It's impossible to briefly encapsulate the various messages and meanings behind No Exit. Discussions and deconstructions are worthy of an entire, dedicated college course. But that doesn't make for an inaccessible play. On the contrary, both Sartre's crisp dialog and Linda Ames Key's strong and precise direction make this a riveting and thought-provoking production. And the acting is top-notch: Bradford Cover (Cradeau, the journalist) is complex and multi-layered, a man who has fooled even his living self into believing he was a hero; Jolly Abraham (Inez) is the tough postal worker who must fend for herself and does so with utter confidence; and Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris plays the coquette Estelle with more complexity than one would expect upon first encountering her. She's simultaneously self-centered and ambitious, playing shy and flirtatious to her advantage. There is wonderful chemistry between the actors whose characters, paradoxically, are not meant to have any.


No Exit is by no means a lighthearted play for a fanciful evening out. But it is one that will ensure thought provoking discussions between friends and a memorable theatrical experience.

JK Clarke • Theatre Pizzazz

Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit, directed by Linda Ames Key at the Pearl Theatre Company (using Paul Bowles's translation), charmingly grapples with heavy existential questions by skipping ahead to the afterlife. In hell, Cradeau and Inez are soon joined by a third companion, Estelle (Sameerah Liqmaan-Harris), and they quickly realize that being spared physical torture might not be as sweet a deal as it seems if it means having to spend eternity in each other's company.

As the lightness that characterized the start of the play seems to have faded completely, the final moments bring it right back, with an edge of lunacy injected in. It's a great way to end No Exit, masterfully executed by Key and the actors alike. And—if I may offer the strangest compliment I've ever given to a play—it will make you appreciate the theater's exits (located to the left and rear of your seat) more than you ever thought possible.

Jacob Horn • Curtain Up Review