What does it all mean?
By MICHAEL SMITH World Entertainment Writer 02/16/02
Theater Club offers polished, captivating production of Beckett's 'Endgame'
There's "Chronicles of Disorder: Samuel Beckett and the Cultural Politics of the Modern Novel." Also "Beckett and Eros: The Death of Humanism." As well as "Beckett and the Mythology of Psychoanalysis." Not to mention "Saying 'I' No More: Subjectivity and Consciousness in the Prose of Samuel Beckett."
These are but a few of the more than 70 books published in just the last five years dissecting the works of Samuel Beckett, master of absurdist literature and the playwright of "Waiting for Godot" and "Endgame," the 1957 tragicomedy that opened Thursday at the Nightingale Theater in a production by Theater Club.
The point is that people have been trying to interpret Beckett for five decades, to varying degrees of success. We don't expect to achieve any particular revelation here, but allow us to provide a bit of information on what to expect.
Theatergoers can expect a polished production featuring a superb cast that lives for this work. This production is a perfect example of why Theater Club was founded: putting on shows that, for one reason or another, no other local company is likely to produce.
"Endgame" has been described as a show where nothing much happens, but that's not exactly true. Quite a bit happens, but it all happens very slowly. Within the first 10 minutes, an audience member will either be so fascinated by the sheer acts of sloth that they'll feel compelled to watch, or they'll be fidget ing in their seat, thinking about making an exit. If this is the case, you'll have to simply walk out; there's no intermission for this nearly two-hour work.
But those who stay will likely delight in the zeal with which this static, motionless bundle of energy plays out.
The setting is one corner of the rear of this black box theater. Black walls, a concrete floor, a large door for one character's near-constant entering and exiting, a couple of trash cans. There's not much here.
That's because there's not much left in this world Beckett created. It's a shelter for four characters who are the last people in the world. Everything outside this place is dead. We think.
Which leaves us with a very lonely place inhabited by Hamm (Craig Wal ter), a blind man who is no longer able to walk but who commands every action here because he controls the food supply. There's also Clov (George Nelson), who can walk and see. He performs every task that Hamm can devise. It's uncertain what connection he has to Hamm from the past, but the current and future situation seems to indicate that of a slave rather than friend.
There's also Hamm's father, Nagg (Dale Sams), and his mother, Nell, (Jenny Jackson), who are relegated to living inside trash cans. They are spaced far enough apart that they cannot touch one another. They beg for food and dreamily talk of a time before this hellish existence.
We sense these actions are the same, repetitive routines these folks go through every horrible day. Hamm has his little fun with Clov, but ultimately their conversations end up discussing how this whole "thing" may be coming to some kind of "finish."
The whole "thing" seems positively vaudevillian at times, which is a credit to director Scott Heberling, whose obvious passion for this classic is communicated to the audience.
There are ambiguous discussions about death and its inevitability, working from the angle that once a person is born, they die a bit every day. And that every day a life has its share of repetitions, as we sleep, wake, work, leave home, come home, perform duties, attend functions, sleep again. And again. And again.
To top off the ambiguity is an ending that leaves us wondering whether a resurrection of sorts is about to take place or if we've reached an end. Or is this a carbon copy of all the days before and the days to come?
Beckett's play asks the great questions. Don't expect easy answers. Just expect that more books will interpret it for those of us left guessing.
The best advice is to enjoy some of the best performances and directing of the season.
Theater Club's production of "Endgame" continues with 8 p.m. performances Saturday, Thursday-Friday and on Feb. 23. All performances are at the Nightingale Theater, 1416 E. Fourth St., and $8 tickets may be reserved by calling 857-9154.
Michael Smith, World entertainment writer, can be reached at 581-8474 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.