Review: B for Beckett - “Endgame” is particularly satisfying in this Beckett trio
By: Candace Chaney
There's one thing you can definitely say about the folks at Balagula Theatre: They are not afraid to take on challenging material. The debut production of the theater's season features the work of playwright Samuel Beckett. A noted existentialist whose dramatic works have been billed "Theater of the Absurd," Beckett's approach to playwriting includes long strands of silence, trailing fragments of words, potent symbolism, minimalist settings, and a disconnection from precepts of time and place.
B for Beckett is a series of three plays that, according to the program notes, are "meant to be viewed as a single show that runs without intermission to preserve the integrity of Beckett's world." Two short plays, Play and Not I, bookend the lengthier, meatier Endgame.
Keen direction, carefully executed acting, and sensitivity to the material's weighty themes are hallmarks of this show. Whether anyone understands what is actually happening in the plays is another matter.
Each of the three shows has a different cast and director, but themes and emotional tones are consistent.
The futility of meaning is explored in the first piece, Play. Directed by Ryan Case, three actors are placed within oversize, misshapen, ashen urns. The audience sees only their faces, also grayed and ashen in appearance.
Turns out, the trio is linked through adultery. The man and two women, one his wife, the other his mistress, each tells his or her part of the tale in quick, gasping fragments of dialogue. Missy Johnston, Robbie Morgan, and Christopher Rose do an excellent job with the dialogue and deserve particular praise for sharply timing their verbose delivery with the shifting spotlight.
Case's emphasis on the death of their relationships provides a fitting segue into Endgame.
Directed by Adam Luckey, Endgame is the longest selection of the evening and what most theater-goers will probably find the most satisfying.
Set in what seems to be a post-apocalyptic future, Endgame focuses on one of humanity's few, and perhaps only, survivors. Hamm is a blind, homebound man who orders around an assistant, Clov. Actors Pete Sears and Nick Swarts develop palpable chemistry and tension.
Luckey's interpretation of Endgame succeeds in "working on" the audience's nerves and emotions. Gareth Evans and Natasha Williams' set design underscores the desolation of someone barely hanging on in a world that has largely moved on.
Sears delivers some of the finest monologues of the evening and Endgame's quiet exit proves a welcome entrance for Not I.
Natasha Williams directs Ryan Case in this short play. Case plays a character simply called Mouth. With only the mouth illuminated, Case emphasizes the frenetic pacing of thoughts and memories, the desperate gasping for self understanding that is, if nothing else, deeply troubling.
Like the disconnected, floating heads of Play, Not I emphasizes Beckett's insistence that modern humans are fundamentally disconnected, not only from one another, but from themselves.