“I long for the simplicity of theatre. I want lessons learned, comeuppances delivered, people sorted out, all before your bladder gets distractingly full. That’s what I want. What I know is what we all know, whether we’ll admit it or not: every attempt to impose the roundness of a well-made play on reality produces a disaster. Life just isn’t so, nor will it be made so.” – John M. Ford
For the first time, I am directing a play. Yes, that’s right, a whole play. I’m wildly excited about it. I’m directing Jean Paul Sartre’s No Exit, which I fall more in love with every time I read or watch it. Because it is generally classified as Theatre of the Absurd, I felt like this quote fit in well with some of the thoughts that have been swirling around in my head regarding this play.
I love Ford’s line about having the play end before he has to go to the bathroom. Sartre made No Exit an hour and a half to comply with Nazi curfews, and yet to a modern audience the upside of the length is more along the lines of Ford’s thoughts on the matter.
But I think one of the main points that Ford makes and that I think is especially true of No Exit is that well-made plays aren’t real life. While absurdist plays might represent a heightened state of real life, or even an imagined one, I think that these plays are closer to what people actually think and feel than others that we see on stage. I feel like the characters of No Exit are some of the most real people I have ever seen on stage, and that’s what makes the play so captivating. Part of the beauty of theatre is that we see humanity on display, we hold a mirror up to ourselves as individuals, a community, or society as a whole, and we learn something about ourselves. We find a little piece of ourselves, for better or for worse, in those characters on stage. And when they learn their lesson, so do we.