Beckett Plays – Play Shorts I
By Samuel Beckett
Empty Spaces Theatre Company at Lowndes Shakespeare Center
As World War 2 ended and Europe rebuilt itself, theater suffered continuing blows as Film and Television became the de facto story telling media of the masses. Samuel Beckett attempted to stand astride the rift, writing cinematically precise plays that simultaneously excluded both the “legitimate” theater audience and that of the new mass distributed media. Tonight’s program explores some of these nearly still borne projects
We begin with “Act Without Words II.” (Corey Volence and Joel Warren, directed by John DiDonna and Kevin G Becker) Two men are asleep in bags, they take turns waking, performing, ablutions, and getting on with the days tasks. A mysterious force lurking under the riser stage left pokes them awake, and we find Warren’s fellow slovenly and misshapen, while Volence almost looks employable on a daily basis. Itâ€™s the poke the audience applauds best, the stick is propped up by a Seuss-like wheel, and as persistent as a dog in need of a walk.
In “Play”(DiDonna, Babette Garber, and Teri Lynne, directed by Becker), three heads entombed in urns are all that remain of an adulterous relation. Speaking as fast as humanly possible, they each tell their side of a story that may or may not be true. As in so many of this series of shorts, the message is not in the words so much as the spaces between them. Tone is half of the communication and the tone of language was a hectoring self justification. They may be dead, but they’re still human.
“Not I” (Peni Lotoza and Jessica Pawli, directed by Margaret Nolan) is perhaps the most technically difficult for the actor. Ms Lotoza’s character has a 20 minute self recursive monolog that has the hypnotic effect listening to a frenetic phone call on the other side of a very thing hotel room wall. A small spot light illuminates her lips, and across the room in a gloomy pool of light is a dark robed figure someone referred to as an “Auditor” (Pawli). The Auditor had no words, but merely gestures as if to say “Can I Use the phone? It’s important. Really.”
I attended this show twice to catch “Quad.” (Lori Engle, Sarah Lockard, Lynne, and Samantha O’Hare, directed by Anna DeMers). I would class “Quad” as a dance piece rather than theater, there were no words or actions that might convey decided action or emotion. Four hooded actors walked in an elaborate, mathematically derive patterns as an overhead view of the motion was projected on a screen. This is as close to pure artiness for artiness’s sake as you can find on stage.
Intermission. Bar closed. Mill around, use the rest room, smoke outside. Funny thing about smoking – almost all the smokers I know are actors. Almost all the actors I know are smokers. All my day job buddies quit. Go figure.
In “Footfalls” (Marty Stonerock, directed by DiDonna) a woman is in charge of dealing with her elderly, bedridden mother, who may or may not be alive, dead, or a hallucination. The Ms Stonerock paces, reflects, and interacts with a woman in an increasingly creepy and oppressive atmosphere.
We wrap up with “Come and Go” (Lotoza, Laurel Clark, and Garber, directed by Becker and DiDonna). Three women in monochrome coats get together to gossip in silence, and dish the dirt on each other when one of them might step off stage. I wish I knew there secrets, I’ll bet they were really…common.
What to make of all this? Beckett is tough going. He’s deliberately obscure, open to interpretation and doesn’t “write like other writers.” During the one talk back I attended, the range of comments from audience and actor covered the waterfront. Beckett can make you think, make you fall asleep, and make you swear you’ll never buy another theater ticket again, but you’ll never conclude “Been there, seen it, done it.” No one should have to tackle him twice.
For more information on Empty Spaces Theater Company, visit http://www.emptyspacestheatre.org