By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
At first the characters lie about how they lived and died. But eventually the truth emerges. Garcin was a boozing, philandering evangelist. Inez, a writer, hates men. Being trapped with one in hell is punishment for murdering her lover's husband. Estelle, married to a man three times her age, died after drowning the baby she had by her teenage dancer-boyfriend.
It's a heavy, talky two and a half hours, with much of the dialogue paralleling Sartre's original. The difference here is the ending. As befits a play presented in a church, The Exit offers an escape from damnation. But it's a subtle, not preachy, message of redemption (would Methodists have it any other way?).
The acting is pretty decent, too. Gestaut gives a gently drawn performance as the disgraced minister. As the pop singer, Korthase has a pinched beauty and a strong presence, but the unflattering khaki pedal-pushers costume designer Kristina Webster has her in don't fit the image of an international star (one imagines Estelle trying them on and saying, "I wouldn't be caught dead in these"). As Inez, Engler is just all over the place, with a showy gesture for every word she utters.
For a new company doing a difficult play, Labyrinth makes a promising debut. But they might want to rethink the awkward 7 p.m. curtain time and the $25 ticket price. That's high for a semi-pro company. And for that kind of money, the audience chairs shouldn't be so brutally hard.
The good news for playwright Ash is that there's bound to be an afterlife for The Exit. After all, the title's already up in lights in every theater in the country.