Hell is other people, as the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre so blithely put it. A clever bit of theater was crafted from this premise in his play, “No Exit,” in which a trio of malcontents is sealed off in a room together, destined to annoy, aggravate and infuriate one another until the end of time. International Theatre of Chicago’s production of “Safe,” by Anthony Ruivivar and Tony Glazer—an actor and writer on the NBC series “Third Watch,” respectively—is a version of “No Exit,” minus Sartre’s exceedingly dark and trenchant wit. A group of hostages are herded into a modern-day bank vault, put there by unseen thieves who have come to rob the place. But rather than uniting in a spirit of can-doism, the direness of the situation leads to petty bickering and morally abhorrent behavior. It’s like being locked up in a room full of Larry Davids, which sounds more amusing than it actually is. One man is killed by his fellow hostages; another is chained up and left for bait. Blood on his hands, the ringleader announces, “What happens in the safe stays here,” to which you, the audience member, can only think, “Yes, just like Vegas.” But whereas Sartre was deeply cynical and pithy about the hellishness of others, the playwrights here simply use it as an excuse for gags, many of which fall flat despite the best efforts of director Dale Goulding and the cast. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.