Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

No Exit
Quintessence Theatre Group
Review by Rebecca Rendell

Also see Rebecca's recent review of Elvis–A Musical Revolution

J. Hernandez, Aneesa Neibauer, and Melody Ladd
Photo by Linda Johnson.
The Quintessence Theatre Group delivers a smartly updated rendition of Jean-Paul Sartre's profound and disturbing No Exit as the second half of its "Salvation and Damnation" Repertory. (Their phenomenal Major Barbara is part one.) Translated and directed by Quintessence Artistic Director Alex Burns, this production brings new vitality to Sartre's uncanny cautionary tale. The trio of outstanding actors who star in this fable bring the audience on a slowly winding path of despair that is distressingly uncanny. In No Exit, damnation is not sparks of fire or sharp, flashing blades, but the mundane misery of being forced to spend time with people you really hate.

Set in a single narrow room in hell, No Exit follows three recently deceased individuals–Garcin, Inez, and Estelle–who expect traditional forms of punishment but instead find themselves eternally tormented by each other's relentless scrutiny and manipulation. As the characters confront their past actions and innermost thoughts, the play makes it clear that "hell is other people," highlighting the inescapable nature of their confinement and the perpetual anguish derived from their interpersonal relationships and self-reflection. Sartre's depiction of the characters' psychological torment and the absence of any physical torture creates a thought-provoking and existential exploration of the human condition and the consequences of our choices.

Burns' uncomfortably narrow set makes the otherworldly waiting room feel appropriately excruciating. And Aaron Mastin's costumes fit each distinct character as well as they are tailored to each actor. But it is the trio of actors themselves who make this production so deliciously disturbing. Melody Ladd plays Inez with a cruel and icy edge. Ladd's tangible viciousness is a perfect contrast to Aneesa Neibauer's languid insipidness as Estelle. Both women are unbearably agitating to J. Hernandez, whose depiction of Garcin is so convincingly miserable you can almost feel bad for the torment he has landed in. Almost.

In the end it seems clear that everyone in the Quintessence production of No Exit is getting exactly what they deserve. But I'm not sure if that is a comfort or the scariest thing of all. I highly suggest you buy a ticket and decide for yourself.

No Exit runs through November 5, 2023, at the Sedgwick Theater, 7137 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia PA. For tickets and information, please call 215-987-4450 or visit

Melody Ladd: Inez
J. Hernandez: Garcin
Aneesa Neibauer: Estelle
Gabriel W. Elmore: The Valet

Alex Burns: Director and Set Designer
Ellen Moore: Lighting Designer
Aaron Mastin: Costume Designer