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"No Exit"

Cast from "No Exit," from left to right: Austin McClister as the bellhop, Harriet Owen-Nixon as Inez, Michael Winder as Cradeau and Bernadette Bascom as Estelle. Jean-Paul Sartre's one-act play will be performed along with "Aria Da Capo" Sunday for the Majestic Reader's Theatre. 

People have their own ideas of what an afterlife and hell must be like.

French philosopher and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre's offered his own memorable take on hell in his 1944 play "No Exit."

Director Scott Trout says people can experience it for themselves at the Majestic Reader's Theatre production of the one-act existentialist play Sunday.

"We'll have the audience all the way around the actors, like a theater in the round setting," Trout said. "The audience will very much feel like they are there with the characters."

"No Exit" will be performed twice Sunday in combination with another one-act play, "Aria Da Capo," in the Majestic Lab Theatre.

Trout said Sartre lived in France during the height of German occupation, and found himself in a difficult position of wanting to resist but also wanting to write.

The writer found ways to subtly drive his anti-occupation themes into his plays.

Sartre drew inspiration for "No Exit" from watching some of the French collaborate with the occupying Germans, Trout said.

The play begins with three characters, who are dead and anticipating punishment. Instead they find themselves in a well-furnished room, which they assume is hell. Cradeau, played by Michael Winder, is a former journalist and pacifist on Earth. Inez (Harriet Owen-Nixon) is a former secretary. Estelle (Bernadette Bascom) is a former queen of the aristocratic society. They are greeted by a bellhop (Austin McClister), who cordially invites them in.

Trout, a Colorado native making his directorial debut for Majestic Reader's Theatre, said the audience and characters realize this setting doesn't fit the description they've heard of hell.

There are no demons, fire and torture racks. Instead, hell takes another form: The three can't stop criticizing each another in this room, where there is no day or night and no sleep.

One of the famous lines from the play is "Hell is other people," Trout said.

"It is specifically life without end, and you can never leave this room with these people," he said.

"You realize they both need and hate each other at the same time, because of the fear of what's unknown leads them there," he added.

Trout said the 90-minute play still packs a modern punch.

"What I'm hoping is for people to be able to put themselves in the shoes of the characters and say, 'I struggle with that exact same thing,'" he said.

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