Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit Is Thought Provoking and Surprisingly Funny

It was co-producer Tom Haynes presented the idea to do Jean-Paul Sartre’s famous Existentialist play No Exit to fellow producer Kurt Benrud, who had newly formed Pequod Productions. Benrud directed the show; and he and Haynes opened the play Friday night, with Thom playing the part of Garcin, Joanna Vickery Herath as Inez, Melanie Simmons as Estelle, and Angela Callahan-Lowden playing the Valet.

The Page-Walker Arts & History Center in Cary, NC turns out to be a perfect venue for this production for several reasons. The third-floor room is a good size for 35 to 40 people to see the three-quarters in the round area up closely and intimately. Benrud warns us that our proximity to railroad tracks might entail an interruption during the show, and sure enough, promptly at 8:30 p.m., Amtrak® whizzed through. However, it did not cause an impromptu break.

The late Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre, influential 20th century existentialist and general intellectual and prolific novelist, essayist, and playwright is making a comeback, attributed by some to the increasingly confusing world since the Cold War and the fall of the U.S.S.R..

Director Kurt Benrud has chosen his cast well, and moves them around expertly, making them available to the audience from all angles. He makes good use of the three pieces of Second Empire furniture, and grounds them on three excellent carpets. Costumes by David W. Serxner are perfect for the period, and hair and make-up by Anna Benrud Talley are the right touch for the characters.

Inez, played by Joanna Herath, is brassy, assertive, domineering, and seductive towards Estelle. Herath plays the part as the most together of the three characters, satisfied with herself and matter-of-fact about her life when alive.

Melanie Simmons, who plays Estelle, brings a wonderful false innocence to the proceedings. Simmons exquisitely portrays Estelle’s vanity and insecurities, and Simmons makes the audience want to be sympathetic with Estelle’s plight until ….

Thom Haynes as Garcin started off a bit slow; but once he got his show feet under him, he soared with the role. Haynes shows Garcin’s self-doubt as unresolvable, very visible, and worst — eternal.

Angela Callahan-Lowden rounds out the cast as the Valet. She does a good job; however, we weren’t sure what kind of accent she was trying to affect.

We thoroughly enjoyed seeing this famous old play, and it is interesting that existentialist thought is being resurrected. Go see it; it is thought provoking and surprisingly funny.

SECOND OPINION: March 17th Raleigh, NC CVNC review Roy C. Dicks:; March 14th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-previews Byron Woods: and; March 14th Hillsborough, NC WHUP/104.7 FM interview with director and co-producer Kurt Benrud and co-producer and actor Thom Haynes, conducted by Wayne Leonard for “Lights Up!”:; and March 9th Cary, NC Cary Citizen review Michael Papich:

Pequod Productions presents NO EXIT at 7:30 p.m. March 17, 3 p.m. March 18, 7:30 p.m. March 19 (Industry Night), 7:30 p.m. March 23 and 24, and 3 p.m. March 25 at the Page-Walker Arts & History Center, 119 Ambassador Loop, Cary, North Carolina 27513.

TICKETS: $14 ($12 students, seniors, and veterans) in advance, but all tickets $14 at the door, except Pay-What-You-Will Industry Night performance at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, March 19th.


Cary Theatre Box Office: Buy tickets in person 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday at the Cary Theatre Box Office, 122 E. Chatham St., Cary, NC 27511.

Cary Arts Center Box Office: Buy tickets in person 4-8 p.m. Mondays at the Cary Arts Center, 101 Dry Ave., Cary, NC 27511.

eTix: Order tickets via the eTix Phone Center at 800-514-3849 or buy tickets online at

SHOW: and





No Exit: A Play in One Act (Huis Clos) (1944 Paris and 1946 Broadway existentialist drama): (Samuel French Inc.), (Internet Broadway Database) and (Wikipedia).

The Script: (Google Books).

Jean-Paul Sartre (philosopher and playwright, nee Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre, 1905-80): (Encyclopædia Britannica), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

Kurt Benrud (Cary, NC director and co-producer and founder of Pequod Productions): (Facebook page) (Twitter page).


Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori previously reviewed theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.