“Hell is other people” has become such a snappy summing up of Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1944 “No Exit,” you could easily forget that it’s just one line — and not the last one — spoken by a character in the play. If hell really is other people, why is Garcin so reluctant to leave Inez and Estelle behind when the locked door to the room they’ve been placed in opens? Could hell instead be solitary confinement? And who’s to say hell is where the three of them actually are? For all that it’s set in a closed room, Sartre’s play is an open-ended look at the human condition, and Boston Conservatory faculty member Andy Vores’s 90-minute chamber opera gives it an unsettling added dimension. Guerilla Opera staged the premiere of Vores’s work in 2008; now “No Exit” is getting a new production, directed by Nathan Troup, at Boston Conservatory’s Zack Box.
Vores has said that he had to cut Sartre’s original text down to a third. He did an exceptional job; it feels as if at least half the original is present, and nothing critical has been omitted. The quartet of singers (the Valet shows Garcin, Inez, and Estelle into the room and leaves them there) is matched by a quartet of instrumentalists: tenor sax, viola, cello, and percussion.