No Exit

Written by Jean Paul Sartre, the ground breaking French Existentialist philosopher and author. Although many nineteenth century philosophers developed the concepts of existentialism, it was Jean Paul Sartre who popularized it with this play. “No Exit” was widely praised when it was first performed in Paris in 1944. Upon its 1946 American premiere at the Biltmore Theater, critic Stark Young described the play as “a phenomenon of the modern theater…(that) should be seen whether you like it or not”. Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964 but declined it, saying he always declined official honors, and “A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution”.

Three damned souls, Joseph Garcin, Inès Serrano, and Estelle Rigault, are brought to the same room in Hell and locked inside by a mysterious valet. At first, none of them will admit the reason for their damnation, but eventually they decide to confess their crimes. Garcin cheated on and mistreated his wife; Inès seduced her cousin’s wife while living with them; and Estelle had an affair—all three stories have disastrous results.

“Written in direct response to the intellectual paralysis of German-occupied Paris, the play now seems a curio that’s equal parts punishing and intriguing. Its cerebral urging to shake off inaction and embrace honesty and hope remains relevant to today’s trying times, even if our age of isolation makes the hell of being stuck with other people seem almost quaint.” – David Rooney, New York Times critic, March 12, 2014

Quotes from the play:

“As for me, I am mean: that means that I need the suffering of others to exist. A flame. A flame in their hearts. When I am all alone, I am extinguished” Inès

“If only you knew how little I care. Cowardly or not, as long as he is a good kisser.” Estelle

“So that is what hell is. I would never have believed it. You remember: the fire and brimstone, the torture. Ah! the farce. There is no need for torture: Hell is other people.” Garcin

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