A Hand of Bridge & No Exit

Soup Can Theatre raises hell with this devilish double bill

Presented by Soup Can Theatre

A Hand of Bridge by Samuel Barber
Libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti
Directed by Pratik Gandhi

No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre
Translated by Stuart Gilbert
Directed by Sarah Thorpe

Carolyn Hall, Daniel Pagett and Tannille Read in No Exit.

Toronto's Soup Can Theatre puts a modern spotlight on the notion that hell is other people in their latest production, a double-bill that features Samuel Barber's short contemporary opera A Hand of Bridge, followed by Jean Paul Sartre's famous existentialist play No Exit, now playing in the Tapestry New Opera studio in Toronto's historic Distillery District.

Staged in the round on a custom-built set, the performance opens with Barber's 1959 mini opera A Hand of Bridge, which follows a card game between two unhappy upper-middle class couples, highlighting themes such as jealousy, envy, infidelity, lust, and unrequited love. Accompanied by a live 14-piece orchestra, each character sings a monologue, revealing their private thoughts to the audience: Bill (Alvaro Vazquez Robles) longs for a woman named Cymbaline, with whom he is having an extramarital affair; Sally (Shilpa Sharma) his materialistic spouse dreams of a hat of peacock feathers she saw in a shop window; Geraldine (Taylor Strande) ponders her relationship with her dying mother, while her husband David (Keith O'Brien) fantasizes about becoming wealthy businessman.

The cast packs an abundance of emotion and meaning into this elegant, endearing and surprisingly amusing 15-minute performance, with soprano Strande and baritone O'Brien delivering the evening's most powerful ariettas under director Pratik Gandhi. The only unfortunate thing about this piece is that it is over so quickly.

Next up is Sartre's No Exit, translated by Stuart Gilbert and directed by Soup Can Theatre artistic director Sarah Thorpe. Written in 1944, the play follows three recently deceased strangers with dark secrets, who find themselves trapped together in a room in hell for all of eternity. With only three chairs and a bronze sculpture (decorated in the style of the Second French Empire) to look at, Garcin (Daniel Pagett), Inez (Tennille Read) and Estelle (Carolyn Hall) are forced to reconcile the fact that their torturers are not demons with hot pokers, but other people, hand-selected by some unknown punisher to make the rest of their undead lives mercilessly miserable. 

Thorpe gets steady performances out of this talented cast: Pagett brings great humour and irony to the role of Rio-based journalist and army deserter Garcin; Read is deliciously cruel as the lesbian post office clerk Inez; Hall shines as the man-hungry socialite Estelle; and Ryan Anning is perfectly creepy as the unblinking (because he has no eyelids) valet. Like in the song "Hotel California," the guests of Sartre's No Exit can never leave. And audiences won't want to check out either.

Another adventurous offering from one of Toronto's most interesting young theatre companies.

Don't miss the last performances of A Hand of Bridge & No Exit in the Tapestry New Opera Studio (9 Trinity Street, Studio 315, Distillery District). Visit soupcantheatre.com for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Wed, 2013-03-27 - Sat, 2013-03-30
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