IMAGO THEATRE is a curious mix of conventional and experimental, making their money touring with productions like the kid-friendly Frogz and Biglittlethings, returning to Portland to try out short-run shows like the recent APIS, or the Taste of Honey, a wordless, out-there piece about bees.
No Exit is one of the cash cows, a well-received show that's run across the country. It's played Portland several times over the years, but the current iteration is unique in that it stars three local actors—Third Rail ensemble members Tim True and Maureen Porter, and scene staple JoAnn Johnson, all of whom are tremendous here.
No Exit presents Hell as parlor drama, literally: The play's three protagonists are escorted to a room decorated only with three miniature sofas, and instructed that this is how they're going to spend the afterlife. It doesn't take long for the characters to determine that they've been handpicked for their ability to torment one another—that, in the money quote, "Hell is other people."
Even the play's director, Jerry Mouawad, will describe Jean-Paul Sartre's script as "a good play, but not a great play." Imago's staging, though—a tilting platform that tips and lurches as the characters move about—is a perfect physical translation of the interpersonal dynamics at work. In a play where allegiances turn on a phrase, the meticulous tableaux created on the uncertain stage add a level of tension and depth that the script alone lacks, transforming a mediocre play into a compelling one.