By David Walters
Hell Dialogues is a play full of a lot of ideas blended together in a pot, vigorously stirred, carefully watched, and left to slightly ferment. Anyone who has a keen interest in self-reflection can gather at The Sheen Center to taste the collective brew and see if it has reached a state of maturity. It’s not quite there yet, but there is absolutely something worthwhile in this composed concoction, and if you’re interested in existential self-exploration, it’s worth a good sniff and swish in your mouth to differentiate and contemplate the many lingering flavors and levels of complexity.
Hus Clos (No Exit) by Jean Paul Sartre, is a play about three people who have died, gone to hell, and find themselves trapped in a room together which leads to the famous line, “Hell is other people,” which tackles the concept of a true morality and the individual responsibility for that morality. “The Dialogues of Plato” is a Socratic argument linking the goal of a happy life with the concept of a just life and the definitions of each. Both of these treatises are poured into the mix and sometimes blend, sometimes clash, and sometimes stand alone and apart from each other.
Though existentialism is a term coined back in 1945, a year after No Exit was first produced, it has its roots stretching back to Socrates and Plato’s descriptions of his ruminations of morality and living a complete life. It’s obvious how writer/adapter Dan Veksler came to put these two works together as they both tread on the deep concept of human morality and the lies we tell ourselves in order to justify our behaviors.
The history of this production also needs to be considered as it sprung from an act of immorality. The war in Ukraine burst upon a production of Sarte’s No Exit and instead of canceling, the artists (as theater artists are want to do) took what was raining down on them and dug further into themselves to explore human life, happiness, morality, justice and lack thereof, and the insanity of the world, pleading for responsibility in thought and deed. This exploration became a conduit for the many emotions that the war elicited and led to the birthing of Hell Dialogues.
The play is built on a foundation of improv and movement, a technique that director Masha Kotlova is exploring in her work, so no two performances will be alike. This is both good and bad, as it brings a freshness to the dialogue, it also allows space to go further afield and it may take a while for everyone to get back into the same pasture.
Locus29 presents Hell Dialogues by Dan Veksler, adapted from J.P. Sartre’s No Exit, and “Plato’s Dialogues,” directed by Masha Kotlova.
The production will receive a limited engagement at The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture (18 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10012) November 2-12.
The cast Max Katz, Anna Zinenko, Peter Murphy, Leo Grinberg, Kylee Jacoby, and Shiobhan Brandman.
Set Design of Anna Kiraly, Costume Design by Sasha Mazhara, composer Marc Ribot with music from The Tiger Lillies and White Fort.
Tickets are available here.
The performance will run for approximately 100 minutes with no intermission.
As always, this is just one person’s opinion in a world filled with them.