Stage Beat

No Exit, an engaging philosophical piece by John Paul Sartre, continues to make us think 60 years after it was written. Three strangers are escorted one by one into an overheated room that¹s much like the ³Hotel California.² Leaving is, well, more difficult than entering. In this hell, there is no brimstone -- only other people. Each one is both the mirror and torturer of the others; they force one another to reveal their true natures, to become ³as naked as the day they were born.² As civility drops away, these caged beasts become crazed, ultimately trapped by their own wrongdoing in life. The cacophony of madness is superbly disturbing. The lesbian adoration that lumbering secretary Inez (Nanique Gheridian) has for vain wealthy socialite Estelle (Margery Lowe) seems a bit strained. Yet Inez is really incapable of love. She psychologically strong-arms both her roommates. Journalist Vincent Cradeau (William Hayes) takes the bait, raging enough to throw her against the wall when she challenges his fragile manhood. This ideas man is too distracted by what other people think to pay attention to a desperate Estelle, who continues to throw herself at him. Cradeau¹s intellectual ramblings and fruitless search for meaning is deliciously maddening. Despite a few stumbles in a long run of dialogue, this trio of actors masterfully portrays the selfishness of human nature. The result is a never-ending battle that represents the futility of life. (Through May 23 at Palm Beach Dramaworks, 322 Banyan Blvd., West Palm Beach, 561-625-6010.) -- Rachel Galvin

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