Utah Premiere of ‘Egress’ at Salt Lake Acting Company Explores Safety, Anxiety and Exhaustion


Reanne Acasio in “Egress” at Salt Lake Acting Company. (Credit Todd Collins)

By Hannah Keating, Arts Editor


Salt Lake Acting Company opened Melissa Crespo and Sarah Saltwick’s play “Egress” on Feb 2. Some SLAC patrons may have been familiar with the show from its 2021 reading in the company’s New Play Sounding Series, but director Colette Robert’s fully staged production breathes new life into a script that forces us to look at how safe we really are.

Powerful Performances

Reanne Acasio, seen previously in SLAC’s virtual production of “Alabaster” in 2021, plays You, an Everyman of sorts who has left her life in Manhattan for a professorship. She teaches architecture — specifically a class on safety and ethics and her specialty is egress.

Throughout the show she monologues, contemplating building layout and exit plans in a way that transforms from nonchalant musings to survival strategies. Her anxieties convalesce in lecture plans, sleepless nights and Facebook Marketplace searches as, in nightmarish flashes, You revisits a traumatic experience with her ex-boyfriend. She lives in fear, considers buying a gun for protection and instead loses even more sleep.

At the helm, Acasio is masterful. From her first moment on-stage, she weaves the world of You from nothing but a single dining room table and high walls made of stark white doors, only some of which open. She is backed by two multi-talented actorsJ.C. Ernst as Man and Vee Vargas as Woman — whose multiple roles act as foils to You. The two balance the play’s far and few between comedic moments against the weight at the center of the show: fear, assault and gun violence.

Reanne Acasio and J.C. Ernst in “Egress” at Salt Lake Acting Company. (Credit Todd Collins)

Abstract Storytelling

“Egress” is beautiful, if not a little abstract. It takes work on the part of the audience, but with the right investment, you begin to interpret the meaning of its more obtuse moments, like rapidly appearing bouquets of roses, a swampy nightmare sequence and recurring flashes of memories lit in yellow and blue. Robert brings the playwrights’ words to life, utilizing projections and smart staging to distinguish areas in the small space. It’s cohesive; the academic in me can connect the dots of architecture, design, sociology, public safety, social justice and more in the script while the artist in me is free to latch on to the show’s undercurrents of anxiety, vulnerability and exhaustion.

Theatre for Community

As a play with triggering content, SLAC has partnered with the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah as their Community Production Partner, encouraging donations to the organization from patrons who were impacted by the conversation in the play.

I also happened to attend the ASL-interpreted performance, provided with funding from SLAC’s Amberlee Accessibility Fund, which helped SLAC fund a remodel to install an elevator. Even as someone who doesn’t sign, I felt as though the interpretation amplified the performance, and SLAC’s efforts to prioritize accessibility in a live theatre show the level of community engagement and support they provide.

At the very end of the show, You sits in the audience of a theater, monologuing one last time about how the environment makes her feel. The play she’s seeing doesn’t matter — it’s about the community, the comfortability, the social contract signed by all as the lights are dimmed. We see a tortured woman finally at ease, able to rest side-by-side with strangers as the exit sign glows above her and us. She cries, a melancholy combination of relief and joy, and I couldn’t help but cry with her.

Like You, I’ve missed sitting in a crowded theater and feeling safe. “Egress” spoke to and assuaged my anxieties, and there is no better venue for a play that serves that purpose than SLAC.


“Egress” continues its in-person run until Feb. 27, and is available to stream Feb. 21-March 6. You can find ticket information here.


[email protected]